An F-35B Lightning II jet, one of the country’s most expensive fighters, was lost in South Carolina following a training mishap. The incident occurred near Joint Base Charleston on Sunday afternoon when a Marine Corps pilot encountered an unknown problem, leading to the abandonment of the aircraft and the pilot’s ejection.
A spokesperson for the United States Marine Corps confirmed the mishap, stating, “We can confirm a mishap involving an F-35B Lightning II jet from Marine Fighter Attack Training Squadron (VMFAT) 501 with the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing. The pilot safely ejected from the aircraft. We are currently still gathering more information and assessing the situation. The mishap will be under investigation.”
The F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter program, considered the Department of Defense’s most expensive weapon system program, has an estimated cost of $1.7 trillion for American taxpayers. According to a 2020 report from the Project On Government Oversight, a single Marine Corps F-35B costs $135.8 million.
After ejecting from the jet, the pilot was found in a residential neighborhood in North Charleston and taken to a local medical center in stable condition. The pilot’s wingman safely landed in a separate aircraft.
Efforts are underway to locate the lost F-35, with officials from Joint Base Charleston working alongside Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort. The details surrounding the training exercise that led to the mishap are currently being investigated.
The F-35 jets, developed by Lockheed Martin, are fifth-generation stealth aircraft designed for air superiority and strike missions. They are equipped with powerful electronic intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance capabilities. In certain configurations, known as “beast mode,” the F-35s can carry laser-guided bombs and AIM-9 air-to-air heat-seeking missiles.
The loss of this F-35 jet highlights the risks and costs associated with the program, as well as the importance of thorough investigations to prevent similar incidents in the future.