Marine Corps Finds Wreckage Of Missing $80 Million F-35 Fighter Jet After Sunday ‘Mishap’

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Micaela Burrow Investigative Reporter, Defense
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The U.S. military identified late Monday debris from an F-35 fighter jet that went missing near North Charleston after its pilot ejected on Sunday, according to a statement.

A “mishap” occurred around 2 p.m. on Sunday that involved two Marine Corps F-35B Lightning II jets, forcing one pilot to eject after the pilot switched on an unspecified autopilot system, officials said, adding that there initially appeared no sign that the jet crashed, officials said, local outlet News19 reported. Officials at Joint Base Charleston, however, could not locate the roughly $80 million advanced fighter for hours and asked the public to provide any information that might help recovery teams find the errant jet, according to a statement.

“Emergency response teams are still trying to locate the F-35. The public is asked to cooperate with military and civilian authorities as the effort continues,” Joint Base Charleston said in the statement Sunday night. (RELATED: Marine Corps Changes Emphasis On Safety After Series Of Deadly Accidents In One Month)

The first pilot landed his jet safely at Joint Base Charleston. The pilot who ejected was found and taken to an area hospital, where he was in stable condition at the time of the latest update, the base said in the statement.

“The pilot safely ejected from the aircraft. We are currently still gathering more information and assessing the situation. The mishap will be under investigation,” a spokesperson for Headquarters Marine Corps told the Daily Caller News Foundation Monday morning.

Search teams found wreckage of the jet in Williamsburg Country about two hours north of Joint Base Charleston, Joint Base Charleston said in an emailed statement at 7 p.m. Monday. The base warned community members to avoid the area while personnel secured the debris.

“The mishap is currently under investigation, and we are unable to provide additional details to preserve the integrity of the investigative process,” Joint Base Charleston said, adding that control of the incident probe would transfer to the U.S. Marine Corps.

Based on the aircraft’s last known location before disappearance, the military focused search efforts on Joint Base Charleston near Lake Moultrie and Lake Marion, according to the first statement.

The aircraft belonged to Marine Fighter Attack Training Squadron (VMFAT) 501 with the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing, which has ties to both Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Beaufort in Beaufort, South Carolina and MCAS Cherry Point near Havelock, North Carolina.

MCAS Beaufort, the 2nd MAW out of MCAS Cherry Point, Navy Region Southeast, the Federal Aviation Administration, Civil Air Patrol and several law enforcement agencies joined in the search, Joint Base Charleston said in the Monday statement.

A South Carolina Law Enforcement Division helicopter joined the recovery efforts after bad weather cleared from the area, The Associated Press reported, citing Senior Master Sgt. Heather Stanton at Joint Base Charleston.

Editor’s note: This article has been updated.

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