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Debris field discovered as authorities investigate F-35 ‘accident’

The search for a missing F-35 stealth fighter jet turned into a recovery mission Tuesday after authorities located a debris field in South Carolina, capping an unusual saga that captured worldwide attention .

The discovery came a day after the public was asked to find the plane, which saw its pilot eject due to an “accident” and leave the plane on autopilot. Authorities will now investigate exactly what happened, with Marine Corps planes grounded following the incident.

Williamsburg County community members were asked Monday evening to avoid the area where the debris field was discovered as a recovery team worked to secure the area.

The debris was discovered about two hours northeast of Joint Base Charleston, the North Charleston air base that made international headlines Sunday after asking on social media for “any information” that might help locate the plane, an F-35B. The Lightning II fighter jet, priced at around $80 million.

The air base had said it was working with Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort to “locate an F-35 involved in an accident” Sunday afternoon.

The pilot was able to eject from the fighter jet safely and was taken to a local medical center in stable condition. They remained in stable condition Monday, a Joint Base Charleston spokesperson said.

It is still unclear exactly what happened in the “accident” that caused the pilot to eject from the plane.

Joint Base Charleston said Monday the incident was under investigation in a Facebook post and said it was “unable to provide additional details to preserve the integrity of the investigation process.”

The plane was left on autopilot when the pilot ejected, Jeremy Huggins, a spokesman for Joint Base Charleston, said Monday. Authorities believed it was possible the plane had remained in the air for some time. Two defense officials, however, said Monday that the plane had neither the autonomy nor the ability to fly for an extended period without refueling.

On Monday, all Marine Corps aircraft, inside and outside the United States, were grounded following the incident, according to an order issued by Gen. Eric Smith, the acting commander. Marines.

Maritime aircraft deployed overseas or flying upcoming missions were able to briefly delay the order, but are expected to stand down for two days this week, officials said. The Pentagon said the suspension would allow units to “discuss aviation security issues and best practices.”

“During the period of suspended security operations, aviation commanders will conduct discussions with their Marines focusing on the fundamentals of safe aviation operations, ground safety, maintenance and flight procedures, as well as maintaining combat readiness,” the statement said.


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