US Military asks for public's help to find missing $80 million F-35 fighter jet

Military officials appealed in online posts Sunday for any help from the public in locating the aircraft

FILE - A Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II
AP Photo/Michel Euler

The U.S. military has asked for the public's help to locate one of its F-35 fighter jets that apparently crashed in South Carolina after a Marine Corps pilot safely ejected from the aircraft over the weekend.

Military officials say the search for the missing jet was focused on two lakes in North Charleston.

The pilot ejected and parachuted safely into a North Charleston neighborhood at about 2 p.m. He was taken to a local hospital, where he was in stable condition, said Maj. Melanie Salinas. The pilot's name has not been released.

Based on the missing plane's location and trajectory, the search for the F-35B Lightning II jet was focused on Lake Moultrie and Lake Marion, said Senior Master Sgt. Heather Stanton at Joint Base Charleston. 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, Stanton said. Military officials appealed in online posts Sunday for any help from the public in locating the aircraft.

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?" she wrote.

Officials are still investigating why the pilot ejected, authorities said.

The pilot of a second F-35 returned safely to Joint Base Charleston, Salinas said.

The planes and pilots were with the Marine Fighter Attack Training Squadron 501 based in Beaufort, not far from South Carolina's Atlantic coast.

The jet, made by Lockheed Martin, is described as the "most advanced fighter jet in the world," as well as the "most lethal, stealthy and survivable aircraft, with a price tag of around $80 million each.

Two pilots were killed when their planes crashed upon landing at an air racing event Sunday in Reno, authorities said.
The Associated Press/NBC
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