Debris from a missing F-35 Lightning II stealth fighter jet has been located in South Carolina about two hours north of where a pilot ejected and parachuted to safety.
But many questions remain amid the ongoing investigation into the incident. The United States Marine Corps has not yet released much information about how the “most expensive” plane disappeared and crashed.
“How the hell can you lose an F-35?” South Carolina U.S. Rep. Nancy Mace, R-Charleston, wrote on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter. “How come there is no tracking device and we are asking the public to find a plane and return it?”
Missing jet located:Debris found in F-35 fighter jet that crashed in South Carolina; Marines suspend operations
The Marine Corps is handling the investigation, now documented as a “Class A incident,” according to the defense agency. This happens when damages reach $2.5 million or more, a Department of Defense aircraft is destroyed, or a person dies or is permanently disabled. A two-day standdown was ordered for the Marine Corps on Sept. 18 while they searched for the plane, acting commander Gen. Eric Smith said in a statement.
The Marine Corps’ 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
What is an F-35?
According to Lockheed Martin, the creator of the fighter jet, the F-35B Lightning II is the deadliest and most survivable aircraft in the world. It can travel short distances and is operated by the United States Marine Corps, the United Kingdom and the Italian Air Force.
Lockheed Martin struck a $4 billion deal with the Pentagon in 2014 to introduce a new fleet of F-35s and overall reduce the cost of the planes by about 3 percent.
How did an F-35 disappear?
Details of the plane’s disappearance have not yet been released. The plane originated from Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort in South Carolina, about an hour north of Savannah, Georgia. A Joint Base Charleston spokesperson told NBC News the plane was on autopilot when the pilot ejected.
Did they find the missing F-35?
Yes. The military located the wreckage of the plane nearly 80 miles north of Joint Base Charleston, which is home to military operations and the Air Force and Navy wings. Units from the Navy, Air Force, Army, Coast Guard and Marine Corps are also at the base.
Where is the F-35 debris field?
Joint Base Charleston said in an article on X debris from the jet was found in Williamsburg County, South Carolina, about two hours north of the base. Residents are asked to avoid the area while a recovery team works to make it safe.
A spokesperson for Joint Base Charleston told USA TODAY that the debris field is also two hours north of where the pilot ejected and landed.
Why did the F-35 pilot eject?
Details of what caused the pilot to eject are under investigation, said 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing Cpl. Christian Cortés.
During the suspension period, aviation commanders will review the defense agency’s flight practices, procedures and policies. The order will also ensure that the Marine Corps is “combat ready.”
“This suspension is intended to ensure that the service maintains operational standardization of combat-ready aircraft with well-prepared pilots and crews,” the agency said.
Contributor: Vanessa Arredondo, USA TODAY; Associated Press