Marine Corps Locates Debris Field of Missing F-35

The Marine Corps has launched an investigation as it paused aviation operations for two days following the incident.

Marine Corps F-35B Lightning II [Credit: U.S. Navy photo]

The missing Marine Corps F-35B—what's left of it—that was reported missing after its pilot ejected during a mishap Sunday afternoon has been located in rural South Carolina, according to officials.

The pilot of the Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort-based fighter jet ejected safely over North Charleston on Sunday afternoon while flying with another F-35. The pilot was quickly located and taken to an area hospital for treatment, however, it took military officials a day to locate the $100 million fighter jet.

Following a search deploying ground and air assets, a debris field was found in Williamsburg County, about two hours northeast of Joint Base Charleston, officials at that base confirmed Monday evening.

"Members of the community should avoid the area as the recovery team secures the debris field," Joint Base Charleston said in a statement Monday evening on X, formerly known as Twitter. "We are transferring incident command to the USMC this evening, as they begin the recovery process."

In an Associated Press report, the Marine Corps said in a statement: “The mishap is currently under investigation, and we are unable to provide additional details to preserve the integrity of the investigative process.”

Earlier Monday, the service had announced it was pausing aviation operations for two days, the AP reported.

The pause in operations comes less than a month after the top Marine Corps commander called for “a thorough and harsh review” of processes in a service-wide safety review following fatal air crashes in August.

The incident—and how a fighter jet could go missing—has prompted questions all the way to Capitol Hill.

“Ejections and crashes are an unfortunate reality due to the inherent risks that pilots face in combat and in training," Representative Adam Smith (D-Wash.), Ranking Member of the House Armed Services Committee, said in a statement Tuesday morning. "As more information becomes available, my colleagues in the House Armed Services Committee and I will be considering whether congressional action is needed to address this and other recent aviation mishaps and ensure such incidents are avoided in the future."

Kimberly is managing editor of FLYING Digital.

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