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Military Searching for Missing F-35 Jet in South Carolina

Military Searching for Missing F-35 Jet in South Carolina


How do you lose an F-35 jet? The government can find me anytime due to satellites, Google, and GPS on my phone.

Yet the military cannot find an F-35 jet worth around $100 million. The military also wants the public to help in the search.

From Stars and Stripes:

The search for the missing jet from the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing based at Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, S.C., was continuing Monday morning, a Marine spokesman said. MCAS Beaufort Marines and personnel from Joint Base Charleston were conducting the search, which was focused on two lakes in the city of North Charleston, the Corps said.

The pilot safely ejected about 2 p.m. local time from the jet after experiencing “a mishap” in the air, according to a Joint Base Charleston statement. Military officials declined Monday to provide further information about the cause of the incident and they said it was under investigation.

The pilot, assigned to Marine Fighter Attack Training Squadron 501, was transferred to a hospital where he was in stable condition after he ejected over a neighborhood in North Charleston, according to the Joint Base Charleston statement. Charleston is about 70 miles northeast of MCAS Beaufort.

Officials said the jet “was supposedly put on autopilot mode.”

The military doesn’t even know if the jet crashed. The jets are built to be undetectable. Plus, the transponder is not working:

F-35s are among the world’s most advanced fighter jets, known for their sharp, aerodynamic body and features that shield them from detection.

“The aircraft is stealth, so it has different coatings and different designs that make it more difficult than a normal aircraft to detect,” Huggins said. He added in a text message late Sunday that teams were still searching for the plane. He declined to specify the nature of the exercise that the pilot was involved in at the time of the incident. The matter is under investigation, he said.


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Tsquared79 | September 18, 2023 at 11:44 am

@Mary Chastain

Which direction was it heading when put on auto-pilot? What was the mishap? Why couldn’t the pilot bring it down?

On another note, leave it to the Marines to launch an aircraft and leave it up in the sky.

    fscarn in reply to Tsquared79. | September 18, 2023 at 2:03 pm

    President Muffley-Biden, “Hello, Dimitri. Yes, I’m fine. Hope you’re fine too. Good that we’re both fine. Now listen, Dimitri, we seemed to have misplaced, lost even, one of our most advanced fighter jets. Yes, yes, I know, I do seem to have a lot of mishaps as president. But that aside, if one of your guys happens to see it, could you let General Milley, my military buffoon, know. That’d be great.”

    countryboy1947 in reply to Tsquared79. | September 18, 2023 at 7:56 pm

    Government can see what I am doing in my dooryard, and can hear everything I say on the phone plus read everything I post on a blog. And they can’t find a 100 million dollar aircraft??

    Ain’t diversity in our military just wonderful.

    I can guarantee that it will come down when the fuel is exhausted. This is not “Star Trek”.

inspectorudy | September 18, 2023 at 11:48 am

There is on record of an Air Force F-106 that the pilot ejected from that landed in a field and was so little damaged that it eventually flew again. It is now in a museum. Maybe this jet did the same thing. If it was on autopilot when he ejected it would have at least landed in the correct position.

Charles Martel | September 18, 2023 at 11:59 am

Flying a plane with “stealth” radar characteristics without a working transponder is nuts! As a minimum, they should have been squawking 1200 (Transponder code for operating under visual flight rules and not under flight control or following).

Additionally, operating this aircraft near Charleston, where there is an airport, without a working transponder is irresponsible.

Some reports include that there was a 2nd aircraft flying with the now-missing aircraft. Why didn’t that aircraft chase down the now missing aircraft which would be a huge danger to other aircraft and people on the ground? If visibility prevented that, it makes flying with an inoperable transponder all that much worse.

There will be an interesting story with the truth comes out. They sure seem to be stingy with any facts right now.

    rhhardin in reply to Charles Martel. | September 18, 2023 at 12:06 pm

    A loose airplane isn’t a great danger except that it comes down on something. Midair collision odds are extremely low, which is how pilots survived so long in the history of aviation.

    One trick for seeing other aircraft in the air is stare fixedly at something and look for motion in side vision. This picks up all sorts of aircraft easily, except for aircraft on a collision course (constant bearing means collision). So even if you’re looking you’re playing odds, which apparently are quite long.

    Charles Martel in reply to Charles Martel. | September 18, 2023 at 12:41 pm

    A couple points:
    * The article says, “he ejected over a neighborhood in North Charleston.” That represents a clear danger to people on the ground.
    * Charleston AFB and International Airport are located in the area where the pilot ejected
    * Charleston AFB reported heavy to light rain at the time the pilot ejected.
    * It is improbable, given the rain, that there were VFR conditions at the time, therefore requiring a working transponder – let alone the probability that they were in or near controlled airspace.

    Admittedly, I don’t know the regulations for flying in a multiplane formation, which might have been the case in this situation. Regardless, I cannot imagine taking off in a “stealth” aircraft without a working transponder.

      How does ejecting over a populated area present “a clear danger to people on the ground,” any more than flying at 35,000 feet over “people on the ground”?
      “Located in the area of” is a nice nebulous term in this case. And it depends to a great degree on which direction we’re talking about – right off the ends of the runways that “close” goes further.
      (Lake Moutlrie, which is part of the search area, is 40 miles away from the airport and the AFB. That is not very close in modern airport terms. The other lake is further than that.)

    Define “near Charleston”? Was it within conflict distance of Charleston? Was it in a restricted area, where civilian aircraft are not supposed to operate?

    They’re stingy with facts because they’re going to actually establish facts instead of speculation.

    As to the wingman…
    It is entirely possible that he was focused on looking for and checking on the pilot, not the aircraft. (That is actually what he is trained to do, btw.) There are possibilities for letting your computer follow the aircraft (up to a point) but we don’t know if the wingman had problems of his own. Or if the mishap pilot had enough time to set up that scenario.

    Even squawking 1200, btw, might not matter much if intervening terrain masked the aircraft. And, since it was in very close proximity to the ground when it crashed (crashing IS being in close proximity to the ground), there was possibly no center that could see it.

    As a former AF pilot (I am over 60 therefore former), this aircraft would have had an operational transponder prior to flight. But, what ever the incident was that caused the pilot to eject, the transponder may have quit functioning. With the stealth characteristics of the F-35, the Air Traffic Control radar would have been unable to track the aircraft without a transponder.

      Both an active in-flight transponder and a functioning ELT, unless they’ve changed the regulations since I was a maintainer (1975-79). One of my jobs was to track down accidentally-triggered ELTs, so I know damn well that they are (were) on the aircraft.

      GWB in reply to BillB52. | September 18, 2023 at 1:17 pm

      And, the transponder tends to stop working after an impact with the ground. (We had one that stopped working after a hard landing in training. But that was a much older aircraft.)
      There are also circumstances when they would have turned it off, even for training. But those are few and far between.

    inspectorudy in reply to Charles Martel. | September 19, 2023 at 12:03 am

    I flew out of that Marine base and there are miles and miles of swamp and barely above-ground areas. You could lose anything in that area and a human would never see it come down.

I’d look for new holes in the ground.

We would like to talk to you about your vehicle warranty.

What was the pilot’s name?

Oh never mind. I’m just thankful the inclusive person got out safely.

    GWB in reply to Paula. | September 18, 2023 at 12:52 pm

    They’re not going to give you the name until that’s been cleared by the USMC. And it likely has nothing to do with the gender or color or whatever of the pilot.
    Now, a week from now you can come back to me with this. But not the day after.

JohnSmith100 | September 18, 2023 at 12:23 pm

No mater how you look at this, it is an incredibly expensive F up. Whoever is responsible will have to claim to be a trans to avoid being held accountable.

    GWB in reply to JohnSmith100. | September 18, 2023 at 12:51 pm

    How is it a “F up”? Do you know something the news isn’t reporting?
    Flying a combat aircraft requires a lot of things to go very right – for the entire time. Not everything that crashes an airplane is a “F up.”

      CommoChief in reply to GWB. | September 18, 2023 at 2:05 pm

      If nothing was wrong with the aircraft then it was pilot error and it was an eff up. If something was wrong with the aircraft it was either the manufacturer or a maintenance crew eff up. If it was weather related then that eff up could be on the pilot, his trainer who passed him out as able to fly in weather, the commander who authorized the flight in these conditions, the meteorological guys if their guesses didn’t pan out or a combo of those.

        GWB in reply to CommoChief. | September 18, 2023 at 3:47 pm

        Sorry, but nope. It’s an airplane. And weather is – even today – seldom exactly what the weather guesser says it is. It’s entirely possible to be struck by lightning in clear skies. And blaming someone is a bad way to improve flight skills and/or aircraft design and maintenance. If the mishap pilot was avoiding a bird strike and over-g’ed the aircraft doing so, then had to eject before the wing came off, would you really say the pilot “F’ed up”?

        Now it could actually be someone‘s fault. But almost all aircraft mishaps are a chain of events, where breaking the chain at any point would have stopped the mishap. One of the biggest part of a pilot’s job is to ensure they break that chain as soon as it’s recognized. And it takes overcoming a lot of human nature to do so.

          CommoChief in reply to GWB. | September 18, 2023 at 5:01 pm

          Ok I’ll give you the possibility of a bird strike and even a cascade effect. Everything else is failure of equipment or human error. May even be honest mistakes due to a gap in the procedures but a gap in the procedures was due to human error in failure to recognize that hike by those who developed, reviewed and implemented them.

          Aircraft ain’t special and neither are pilots. Things go wrong all over the place, in air on the ground and at sea. It is almost always human error or equipment failure not some unique, unforeseen or never before encountered circumstance. Personal accountability for those errors is a must.

How do you lose an F-35 jet? The government can find me anytime due to satellites, Google, and GPS on my phone.
Can we please stop this idiocy? Ha ha, the military actually “lost” a jet. Yeah, really funny.
First of all, YOU gave the ability to follow you to the gov’t and tech companies.
Second, the GPS on your phone does nothing but accept radio transmissions from satellites that help it establish your position. Without a transmitter that sends that data to someone else it helps NO ONE ELSE find you. It doesn’t even help you unless you have a map or know your base coordinates and can do the trigonometry.
Third, their search area is conservatively 850 square miles, including one or two large bodies of water. You can’t find your keys in your house, but just snap their fingers and find a plane?
Fourth, unless it augured in at a really low angle, and left a big scar in the landscape, even a largish attack aircraft is not going to leave a huge imprint. And if it landed in the water, it will leave almost none until some real meaty recovery efforts get underway.
And, no, stealth aircraft (really NO combat aircraft) have emergency locator transmitters (ELTs) on them that just flip on when the airplane crashes. That would be a very bad thing when at war. (The pilot ELTs get disconnected before takeoff in certain areas of operation.)

You might want to look to the people who actually know combat aircraft, how to fly them, and what a crash means, before you start with lame jokes.

    GWB in reply to GWB. | September 18, 2023 at 12:49 pm

    Oh, as to the imprint…
    I flew over an aircraft crash site almost daily when I was Loring AFB. It was a KC-135 – a variant of the 707. So, not a super-big aircraft, but no fighter jet. It literally left an aircraft-shaped spot on the ground for several years. And it wasn’t a heavily wooded area.
    And unless you knew where to look, even from an airplane a few hundred feet in the air, it was hard to discern. Crashed aircraft seldom give a mushroom shaped fireball like a nuke just went off – that’s usually just in the movies.

      The old Canadian series Mayday (aired in the U.S. as Air Crash Investigation) often used news footage of crash sites. In many cases, the only ground sign of a crash is a burned spot in the ground cover about the size of a swimming pool. The aircraft arrows in & digs a hole for itself which then collapses on the wreckage. And then you have aircraft which crash in rivers, lakes, the Everglades (Valujet 592, for example) which leave no ground sign. And these are aircraft six to ten times the size of an F-35.

      diver64 in reply to GWB. | September 18, 2023 at 3:12 pm

      Caribou is some oasis, isn’t it?

      countryboy1947 in reply to GWB. | September 18, 2023 at 8:23 pm

      I spent 2 yrs in Presque Isle and was at Loring when it was operational. Lots of crashes around. One of my teachers at the school in PI was an old WWII vet stationed at Presque Isle AAF base and knew of wrecks from that era. Just in case you are interested here is a nice link to a group in my state of Maine.

    GWB in reply to GWB. | September 18, 2023 at 1:22 pm

    And, no, stealth aircraft (really NO combat aircraft) do not have emergency locator

E Howard Hunt | September 18, 2023 at 12:47 pm

It just crossed over into The Twilight Zone.

• No none will lose his job.
• No one will be demoted.
• No one will have his pay check affected.
• No one will feel shame (hubris much?)

The only thing that will be done is to put in some sort of “remedy” that will end up costing the taxpayers an enormous amount of money. Gee, for some reason the aircraft’s transponder wasn’t working.

Can you spell embarrassment?

    GWB in reply to tiger66. | September 18, 2023 at 1:19 pm

    Why do you assume there is anyone to blame?
    Maybe hold off on spelling embarrassment until you can rightly assign it.

    diver64 in reply to tiger66. | September 18, 2023 at 3:10 pm

    Crap happens. You want everyone to be fired over who knows what? It could have been a mechanical failure

      GWB in reply to diver64. | September 18, 2023 at 3:49 pm

      And that mechanical failure could have (at first blush) at least three ‘sources’:
      Design/Test – a design that thought it could handle X, but really couldn’t.
      Manufacturing – a piece that wasn’t to spec (they don’t test EVERY piece to failure).
      Maintenance – a zeus nut that wasn’t properly turned, a connection made poorly, etc.

MarkSmith | September 18, 2023 at 1:04 pm

I saw it on Craigs List for 5 M

“There will be an interesting story with the truth comes out. They sure seem to be stingy with any facts right now.” 11;59 am

When the truth come out? C’mon man; ya gotta be kidding me

Hey, the military lost a nuke once in S.C. Things happen down south.

BTW, I can’t get the archive link about the transponder not working to open. Just sits and spins.

The_Mew_Cat | September 18, 2023 at 2:43 pm

It must have went down over water.

I’m going to assume 2 things. The pilot knew what direction he was heading and the approximate fuel load. Do a little math, go to that final spot and wander back along the path.

    GWB in reply to diver64. | September 18, 2023 at 3:53 pm

    We don’t know if the pilot can talk – he’s stable is all I’ve heard.

    I do think his wingman might have been able to help… assuming they weren’t going very fast when he bailed out. If so, the mishap plane is long gone by the time he establishes mishap pilot is OK in the chute or on the ground.

Cheap unmanned drones will (try to) return to launch point when they lose contact with the user. One would think $100 million aircraft would have the ability to do something similar.

    GWB in reply to geronl. | September 18, 2023 at 3:51 pm

    Ummm, the pilot ejected, meaning the plane was not going to continue to fly. In what way would it turning and trying to get home and THEN crashing be of any help to the searchers?

Anyone seen that 1998 Sci Fi with Kris Kristofferson called Millenium? Interesting premise.

Can I have one?

Asking for my SIL

He’s a pilot, I’m
Sure it would make a great Christmas Gift !

The Laird of Hilltucky | September 18, 2023 at 3:25 pm

Thanks to everyone who contributed to this delightful Monday laugh-fest!

Let me sure that I understand your request. You want me to help you find an airplane that you made invisible, right?

ghost dog | September 18, 2023 at 4:09 pm

Reminds me of Kathleen Madigan’s MH 370 bit.

No offense, but if they can’t find a stealth fighter, it means it worked. Right?

Could that inflatable pilot from Airplane be piloting?

Was the aircraft not equipped with an ELT?

The most important question for Milley: what were the aircraft’s pronouns?

On Aug. 7. 1996, a U-2 spy plane crashed into the parking lot of the Oroville Mercury-Register newspaper, killing the pilot […].

Beale AFB is nearby. They train U-2 pilots and crews.

A friend of mine heard the bang of the ejection seat, looked up, and the plane was slow gliding before it pancaked. No “wing” fire or “spiral dive” as reported in the papers. There are no videos. The pilot likely died during ejection. He was found dead when military rescue crew arrived.

Friend told me the plane started to slowly glide-rotate (like hands on a horizontal clock) while remaining horizontal with respect to the ground. He is a retired MP formerly tasked with securing runways from outsider photographic surveillance. So he’s no ordinary witness.

My point being. The military simply won’t report what actually happened, it never did with respect to the Oriville U2 crash.

ghost dog | September 18, 2023 at 7:26 pm

Good news. Someone turned it into the lost and found.

The crashed jet has been found in SC.

WILLIAMSBURG COUNTY, S.C. (WCBD)- Officials with Joint Base Charleston (JBC) confirmed that debris from a F-35 fighter jet that went missing Sunday has been located in Williamsburg County.

Officials said in a statement Monday evening that the debris was located in Indiantown, an area about two hours northeast of Joint Base Charleston, the aircrafts initial departure site. — News2, Charleston SC

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