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F-35 fighter jet missing after pilot ejects during ‘mishap’


A U.S. fighter jet’s stealth abilities appear to be working too well, with authorities forced to ask the public for help finding an F-35 that went missing somewhere over South Carolina when the pilot ejected due to a “mishap.”

Joint Base Charleston, an air base in North Charleston, said it was working with Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort to “locate an F-35 that was involved in a mishap” on Sunday afternoon.

The pilot was able to safely eject from the aircraft, an F-35B Lightning II jet, and was taken to a local medical center in stable condition, the air base said in a Facebook post at around 5:35 p.m. ET.

The condition of the pilot was not immediately clear as of Monday morning. The circumstances surrounding the “mishap” also remained unclear. Joint Base Charleston and the U.S. Air Force did not immediately respond to overnight requests for comment from NBC News.

Joint Base Charleston asked the public to “cooperate with military and civilian authorities” as the effort to locate the jet continued. “If you have any information that would assist the recovery teams, please call the JB Charleston Base Defense Operations Center at 843-963-3600.”

The air base said it was focusing its attention north of its air base around Lake Moultrie and Lake Marion based on the jet’s last-known position and coordination with the Federal Aviation Administration. The FAA did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The incident attracted some criticism, with Rep. Nancy Mace (R-S.C.) asking in a social media post: “How in the hell do you lose an F-35?”

“How is there not a tracking device and we’re asking the public to what, find a jet and turn it in?” Mace wrote.

The jet’s transponder, which usually helps locate the aircraft, was not working “for some reason that we haven’t yet determined,” Jeremy Huggins, a spokesman at Joint Base Charleston, said, according to The Washington Post.

“So that’s why we put out the public request for help,” Huggins said.

He added that the aircraft is “stealth, so it has different coatings and different designs that make it more difficult than a normal aircraft to detect.”

Aerospace giant Lockheed Martin describes the F-35 series on its website as the “Most Advanced Fighter Jet in the World,” as well as the “most lethal, stealthy and survivable aircraft.”

The F-35 family includes three single-seat variants, including the F-35A conventional takeoff and landing jet, the F-35B short takeoff/vertical landing variant and the F-35C carrier.

Joanna Swanson

Joanna Swanson is Europe correspondent at the Thomson Reuters Foundation based in Brussels covering politics, culture, business, climate change, society, economies and inclusive tech. With specific focus in breaking news, she has covered some of the world's most significant stories.