‘How do you lose an F-35?’: US military still searching for missing jet

US military says search for missing F-35 fighter jet centred around two large lakes near Charleston, South Carolina.

An F-35 fighter jet flies
The disappearance of the highly advanced F-35 Lightning II aircraft, which costs about $80m, sparked incredulous comments online [File: Jana Rodenbusch/Reuters]

The United States military has said search teams are still looking for a missing F-35 fighter jet, with the failure to track the aircraft drawing questions, amazement and ridicule.

Joint Base Charleston said on Monday afternoon that it was working with other military divisions and US authorities to try to locate the F-35B Lightning II, “using both ground and air assets”.

“We appreciate the support we’ve received from our mission partners and every organization involved, as integrated teams are searching and preparing for the recovery of the jet,” the base said in a statement shared online.

The F-35 disappeared over South Carolina on Sunday after the pilot ejected for unknown reasons, prompting the base to issue a call on social media asking anyone with information to call in.

Joint Base Charleston said that “based on the jet’s last-known position”, the search was centred around two large lakes north of the city of Charleston – Lake Moultrie and Lake Marion – suggesting it may have crashed.

The pilot parachuted safely into a North Charleston neighbourhood, leaving the F-35 flying in what some called a “zombie state”.

According to its manufacturer, Lockheed Martin, the jet’s main advantages are that it is nearly impossible to track with radar and is packed with advanced sensors and other gear.

The disappearance of a highly advanced aircraft, which costs about $80m, sparked incredulous comments online.

Some posted manipulated photographs of “lost” signs on trees, offering rewards to find the missing jet.

“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?” Nancy Mace, a member of Congress representing the Charleston area, said on social media.

Mace said in another post on X, the website formerly known as Twitter, that she was going to be briefed by the US Marine Corps on Monday afternoon about the situation.

“No one knows if the F-35 is in the air or under the water,” she later said.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies