U.S. military officials said they're searching for a missing Marine Corps F-35B Lightning II stealth fighter in South Carolina, and they're asking for the public's assistance.
The base then asked the public "to cooperate with military and civilian authorities as the effort continues." The Joint Base said in another social media post that anyone who has information about the missing F-35 should call the Base Defense Operations Center at 843-963-3600.
A spokesperson for the base, Jeremy Huggins, told media outlets that the jet was left in autopilot mode. Officials said there's a possibility the F-35 is still airborne.
Based on the missing plane’s location and trajectory, the search for the F-35 was focused on Lake Moultrie and Lake Marion, Senior Master Sgt. Heather Stanton at Joint Base Charleston told The Associated Press. Both lakes are north of North Charleston.
A South Carolina Law Enforcement Division helicopter joined the search for the F-35 after some bad weather cleared in the area, according to Master Sgt. Stanton. Military officials appealed in online posts on Sept. 17 for any help from the public in locating the aircraft.
Officials are still investigating why the pilot ejected, authorities said.
Other IncidentsMore than 1,000 F-35s, which have tremendous stealth capabilities, have been produced by Lockheed Martin over the years, costing tens of billions of dollars. The firm has described the F-35 as the “most advanced fighter jet in the world.”
"This program is weighing options to upgrade its engine and cooling system. But it hasn't taken some important steps, such as fully assessing the costs and technical risks of the different options. DOD also doesn't plan to manage the upgrades as a separate acquisition program. This would limit Congress's insight into possible future cost increases," the GAO stated in the report.
The F-35 program is about 10 years behind schedule and roughly $183 billion over the original estimates for its cost, GAO stated before it provided recommendations about how to handle costs.
In 2018, an F-35B crashed near Little Barnwell Island in Beaufort County, South Carolina; the pilot was able to eject from the aircraft. The GAO found that the cause of the crash was a manufacturing defect in the engine fuel tube.
That was the first time an F-35 crashed in nearly two decades of the program's history.