F-35 stealth jet debris discovered after bizarre disappearance

Williamsburg County, South Carolina - Debris from an F-35 stealth jet that went missing after the pilot ejected has been found, the Air Force said Monday, after a day in which the bizarre failure to track the $80 million aircraft drew amazement and ridicule in equal measure.

Debris from the missing F-35 stealth jet was discovered two hours from the Air Force base that asked the public for help finding it.
Debris from the missing F-35 stealth jet was discovered two hours from the Air Force base that asked the public for help finding it.  © REUTERS

The debris field from the aircraft was found in Williamsburg County, South Carolina, two hours northeast of Joint Base Charleston (JBC), officials said in a statement posted on X.

"Members of the community should avoid the area as the recovery team secures the debris field," the statement read.

When the jet disappeared over South Carolina on Sunday, JBC issued a plaintive call on social media asking for anyone who had information about it to call in.

Stealth F-35 fighter jet missing after "mishap" as US Air Force makes bizarre request
Strange Things Stealth F-35 fighter jet missing after "mishap" as US Air Force makes bizarre request

Flight tracking sites showed several search aircraft focused on a wooded and farmland area near Stuckey, which is in Williamsburg County, about 75 miles north of Charleston, late Monday afternoon.

The F-35 Lightning II jet is coveted by US allies around the world, especially Ukraine, with its distinctive shape and features that shield it from radar detection.

The pilot ejected for unknown reasons and parachuted safely into a North Charleston neighborhood on Sunday – leaving the jet flying in what some called a "zombie state."

Latest in a long line of F-35 mishaps

The missing aircraft was an F-35B, a variation operated by the Marines that has short takeoff and vertical landing capabilities.

The shape of its airframe, including two angled stabilizers on the back, and the use of special materials make it harder for traditional radar to detect.

JBC spokesperson Jeremy Huggins told the Washington Post that the jet's transponder was not working, and that its stealth capabilities added to the challenges of tracking it.

At least seven F-35s have been destroyed in previous crashes, due to a range of causes.

Cover photo: REUTERS

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