• Sat. Apr 13th, 2024

Missing F-35 Found But ‘World’s Most Advanced Fighter Jet’s’ Vanishing Act Raises Concerns

Curated By: Shankhyaneel Sarkar

Last Updated: September 20, 2023, 15:56 IST

Washington D.C., United States of America (USA)

The missing F-35 B Lightning II jet, which was later found, now poses a multimillion dollar question before the US Marines and its makers Lockheed Martin. (Image: Reuters/Representative)

Despite the recovery of the multimillion dollar F-35 jet, questions emerge about the pilot’s ejection, the jet’s non-responsive transponder and its autonomous flight.

The missing F-35 jet, which has been touted as the world’s most advanced fighter jet, was found early Monday morning (local time), after it went missing over the weekend, in rural South Carolina.

The debris from the $100 million fighter F-35B Lightning II jet – which is the US Marine Corps variant of the Joint Strike Fighter – was found in Williamsburg County on Monday. The pilot aboard the fighter jet ejected before the crash and was taken to a hospital nearby. He had taken off from Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort before, later ejecting over North Charleston.

He parachuted to the ground and landed in a backyard in the suburbs.

The first question that investigators will be probing is why did the pilot bail from such an advanced jet. The second question despite the fighter jet having an advanced transponder, how did the fighter jet elude the search teams. The third question is how did the F-35B fly the distance it did without any guidance.

The Hill in its report said in its report that it raised these queries with the US Marine, but they have been tight-lipped regarding what they know.

“The mishap is currently under investigation. We are unable to provide additional details to preserve the integrity of the investigatory process,” Marine Corps spokesman Captain Joe Leitner said in a statement to The Hill.

The F-35B Lightning II jet is a single-seat fighter aircraft made by Lockheed Martin. It costs a whopping $100 million and is termed by its maker as the “most advanced fighter jet in the world”.

It can reach speeds up to 1,932 kph and operate in stealth in hostile airspace while also being able to land vertically with short take-offs, the Hill said, citing the makers of the jet.

The missing aircraft is part of Joint Base Charleston’s 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing.

The concerns grew when it took almost over 24 hours to locate the jet and then the Marine Corps, along with local law enforcement, urged the public to call in and share any information they may have while they searched areas around Lake Moultrie and Lake Marion northwest of Charleston.

It was finally on Monday evening a debris field was found and on Tuesday morning Marine Corps confirmed that it was the downed F-35, found two hours northeast from where it took off.

The Hill citing the recovery team said it will take time for the recovery and investigation process to end.

Lawmakers and former officials, however, are not impressed with this multimillion dollar mishap.

“How in the hell do you lose an F-35? How is there not a tracking device and we’re asking the public to find a jet and turn it in?” South Carolina Republican and member of the House of Representatives Nancy Mace posted on social media site X (formerly Twitter), expressing her frustration.

James Hutton, a retired Army colonel and former assistant secretary at the Department of Veterans Affairs, told the news outlet that the taxpayers have the right to know ‘some basic answers’.

Mace said that the question of transponders not working following disappearance is the “$80 million question”. “We’ve invested so much money into this program. And the minute there’s an accident, we have no idea where the jet is. That’s just unacceptable,” Mace was quoted as saying by The Hill.

Third High Profile Crash in Six Weeks

The Marine Corps on Monday ordered a two-day safety stand down to assess the situation as the crash was the third Marine Corps aircraft mishap within six weeks. These crashes are classified as Class-A mishaps.

“This stand down is being taken to ensure the service is maintaining operational standardisation of combat-ready aircraft with well-prepared pilots and crews,” the Marine Corps said in a statement.

In August the Marine Corps suffered two crashes. An F-18 crash during a training flight near San Diego that killed the pilot and an MV-22B Osprey crashed in Australia that killed three Marines and injured 20 others during a war drill.

Class-A mishaps are incidents that lead to a death or cause more than $2.5 million in property damage.

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