Marine Corps F-35 fighter jet missing after 'mishap' over South Carolina

 Marine Corps F-35B.
Marine Corps F-35B.

A Marine Corps F-35B Lighting II fighter jet is missing in South Carolina after a "mishap" Sunday that caused the pilot to eject over Charleston, Joint Base Charleston said. The unidentified pilot parachuted into a North Charleston neighborhood at about 2 p.m. on Sunday and was in stable condition at a local hospital, a spokesperson for the base said.

"If you have any information that may help our recovery teams locate the F-35, please call the Base Defense Operations Center," Joint Base Charleston said on X, formerly Twitter. "Based on the jet's last-known position and in coordination with the FAA, we are focusing our attention north of JB Charleston, around Lake Moultrie and Lake Marion." The FAA referred any question to the military. A South Carolina Law Enforcement Division helicopter joined the search, The Associated Press reported.

The F-35, made by Lockheed Martin, is one of the most advanced and expensive fighter jets in the world. The F-35B has a list price of about $90 million, but upgrades have inflated the cost of the over-budget program. An F-35A — "the cheapest of the three models" in production — that crashed in Utah last year was valued at $166 million, The Wall Street Journal reported.

About a dozen F-35s have been destroyed in crashes since they entered service in 2015, the Journal reported. "The aircraft are equipped with transponders and beacons, and several have been recovered from hostile environments," including from a depth of more than 12,000 feet in the South China Sea last year and from the floor of the Mediterranean in 2021. Lake Moultrie and Lake Marion "each have an average depth of less than 20 feet and are around 75 feet at their deepest point," the Journal noted.