The Lockheed Martin F-35B Lightning II multipurpose fighter jet is one of the biggest military tech gambles in recent history. A next-generation aircraft with vertical takeoff capabilities, it’s the sort of equipment you’d expect to be kept closely-guarded to keep the free world safe. Well, if you thought you were having a bad day, you should probably see this: Joint Base Charleston (which is home to the Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, Army, and Coast Guard) claims it’s misplaced an F-35B Lightning II somewhere over the Carolinas after an unfortunate ejection incident.
According to an NBC News report, this episode of Dude, Where’s My Fighter Jet was caused by the pilot ejecting while the jet was still on autopilot. On the plus side, according to Joint Base Charleston’s Facebook page, “The pilot ejected safely and was transferred to a local medical center in stable condition.” Remember, even though an F-35B costs in the neighborhood of $80 million, it’s replaceable while human lives aren’t. As for why the pilot ejected, Joint Base Charleston claims a “mishap,” but a detailed cause isn’t available yet.
As it stands, the jet remains at large, but don’t be alarmed — that puppy should’ve definitely come down by now. The Washington Post reports that “the search is being concentrated near Lake Moultrie, a murky body of water that is 75 feet deep at its deepest point and 14 miles across at its widest.” Roughly 50 miles by car from Charleston, S.C., Lake Moultrie is one of the largest lakes in South Carolina, so it should certainly be large enough to hide a mechanical bird.
This isn’t the first F-35 to temporarily disappear, as in 2022, a pilot in an F-35C bounced off the deck of the USS Carl Vinson and ended up in the South China Sea. Mercifully, nobody died in this incident, although according to the United States Naval Institute, it took more than a month to find and recover the wreckage from the blue depths.
Thankfully, we shouldn’t see a repeat of the Douglas C-54D disappearance in 1950, partly because South Carolina is substantially more populated than the Yukon and partly thanks to modern technology. With vehicle tracking and satellite guidance, the military should know roughly where the F-35B Lightning II should’ve gone down, so they aren’t completely guessing with the search. Mind you, there is some level of approximation involved here — the Washington Post reports that the F-35B Lightning II jet’s transponder wasn’t working at the time of the incident.
If you live roughly in the vicinity of Charleston, S.C. and happen to have seen an F-35B Lightning II go down in the past, oh, 24 hours or so, you might want to drop the military a line. As Joint Base Charleston wrote in a Facebook post, If you have any information that would assist the recovery teams, please call the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing Public Affairs Office at 252-466-3827.” In the meantime, does anyone want to go fishing? I bet one of those Pratt & Whitney turbofan engine would really perk up the performance of Jason’s Changli.
(Photo credits: Lockheed Martin)
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