An F-35 fighter jet has been misplaced by the US military after its pilot ejected. The irony: the US Air Force was forced to appeal to citizens to find this stealth device.
How can you lose a fighter jet costing at least $80 million? Since the United States army launched an appeal to citizens to help find an F-35, absent following an “incident”, many Americans have been asking the question, between amused amazement and dismay.
The (very) stealthy plane disappeared on September 17, according to the military base in Charleston, South Carolina. And its pilot was able to eject “in complete safety”, added the American army, without specifying why he had to resort to this extreme option normally synonymous with imminent danger.
“If you have any information, please call the Base Operations Center”
But since then the expensive aircraft, the flagship of American naval aviation, has been nowhere to be found. “If you have any information that could help our teams locate the F-35, please call the Base Defense Operations Center,” Joint Base Charleston wrote on X (formerly Twitter).
An unusual call which immediately sparked a myriad of reactions. “We knew that the F-35 was stealthy, but this is ridiculous,” said a Republican representative from South Carolina, Nancy Mace, on X.
“How the hell do you lose an F-35?”
“How the hell do you lose an F-35? How is it possible that there is no monitoring system and that the population is asked… imagine what? To find a plane and hand it over to the authorities? she added.
One of the spokespersons for the Charleston base explained to the Washington Post that the device did have a transponder – a receiver-transmitter allowing it to be located – but that it was not working “for a reason that we have not yet determined”. “This is why we have launched a public appeal for help,” continued the spokesperson, Jeremy Huggins.
Authorities have so far limited themselves to saying that based on the last known position of the highly sophisticated F-35B Lightning II, the search was focused on an area north of Charleston, near Lakes Moultrie and Marion.
“We are still collecting the information,” another base spokesperson told AFP on September 18. “The investigation is ongoing.”
On X, amused, even mocking, comments multiplied about this device belonging to the very prestigious United States Marine Corps. Internet users notably shared fake wanted posters photoshopped on trees: “F-35 missing. Reward of 500 dollars.
Opponents of Democratic President Joe Biden also took the opportunity to attack his government. “Only under the Biden administration can the US military lose an $80 million F-35 in the air,” squeaked conservative commentator Benny Johnson in a post on X.
According to a popular theory on social media, the plane went into “zombie” mode, meaning it flew – or still flies – on autopilot.
Nothing has come from the authorities on this subject. But in 1989, a Soviet MIG-23 leaving Poland crashed near Kortrijk, Belgium, after traveling more than 900 km without a pilot, his own having also ejected from the aircraft.