- A pilot ejected from his F-35B Lightning II jet following a “mishap” during a Sunday training flight.
- While the pilot was unharmed, the jet was lost and has not yet been recovered by officials.
- The F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter program is the DOD’s most expensive at $1.7 trillion.
An expensive F-35 jet has been lost somewhere in South Carolina following a training mishap.
A Marine Corps pilot was flying one of the country’s most expensive fighters near Joint Base Charleston on Sunday afternoon when an unknown problem occurred, forcing the pilot to abandon the aircraft and eject.
“We can confirm a mishap involving an F-35B Lightning II jet from Marine Fighter Attack Training Squadron (VMFAT) 501 with the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing,” a United States Marine Corps spokesperson told Insider. “The pilot safely ejected from the aircraft. We are currently still gathering more information and assessing the situation. The mishap will be under investigation.”
The F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter program is the Department of Defense’s most expensive weapon system program, according to the US Government Accountability Office. Per the GAO, officials estimate it will cost American taxpayers about $1.7 trillion to “buy, operate, and sustain the aircraft and systems over its lifetime.” A single Marine Corps F-35B costs $135.8 million, according to a 2020 report from the Project On Government Oversight.
The pilot, after ejecting, was found in a residential neighborhood near South Kenwood Drive in North Charleston and transported to a local medical center in stable condition, according to local news outlet WCBD. His wingman safely landed in a separate aircraft, the outlet reported.
Representatives for Joint Base Charleston did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Insider but posted on X that officials were working with Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort to locate the lost F-35. Details regarding the training exercise that prompted the mishap are currently under investigation.
According to a former test pilot, F-35 jets — Lockheed Martin’s fifth-generation stealth aircraft — are intended for air superiority and strike missions, Insider previously reported, and are “designed precisely” to fight and win in the kind of war happening in Ukraine. The US Air Force deployed F-35s to NATO’s front line to patrol for Russian missiles following the invasion of Ukraine.
While each aircraft has various weaponry configurations, the jets have a powerful electronic intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance suite. In a configuration known as “beast mode,” which Insider previously reported sacrifices stealth for firepower, F-35s can be equipped with laser-guided bombs on their wings, and an AIM-9 air-to-air heat-seeking missile.