Military officials discovered a debris field in South Carolina the day after a Marine F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter jet went missing. The debris field was two hours northeast of Joint Base Charleston. Joint Base Charleston transferred incident command to the United States Marine Corps (USMC) on Monday.
Authorities characterized the missing jet as a “mishap” and initiated an investigation over the weekend. A report revealed two F-35B Lightning jets were in flight around 2 p.m. on Sunday. One pilot executed a safe landing, but the other “engaged an unspecified automated flight system” and ejected.
Teams from JB Charleston, @MCASBeaufortSC, the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing out
of MCAS Cherry Point, Navy Region Southeast, the FAA, the Civil Air Patrol, as well as local, county, and state law enforcement across South Carolina have been working together to locate the U.S. Marine…
— Joint Base Charleston (@TeamCharleston) September 18, 2023
According to a Facebook post by Joint Base Charleston, the pilot ejected following a “mishap.” The pilot was promptly located and transported to a hospital for treatment. He is currently reported to be in stable condition.
The Facebook post read, “Emergency response teams are still endeavoring to locate the F-35.” One resident recounted hearing a “boom sound” on Sunday night. He said, “I heard a plane coming across, seeming to be flying relatively low. Then I heard a boom sound.”
Officials issued a statement advising community members to avoid the area while the recovery team secures the debris field. The transfer of incident command to the USMC was scheduled for the evening as they started the recovery process.
On Monday, the USMC declared a two-day pause in operations “to discuss aviation safety matters and best practices.” The Marine Corps explained, “This stand down [is] being taken to ensure the service is maintaining operational standardization of combat-ready aircraft with well-prepared pilots and crews.”
The press release also stated, “This pause invests time and energy in reinforcing the Marine aviation community’s established policies, practices and procedures in the interests of public safety, protecting our Marines and sailors and ensuring the Marine Corps remains a ready and highly-trained fighting force.”
This incident serves as a reminder of the unpredictability that can arise even in the most meticulously planned operations. While the pilot’s ejection over North Charleston may have caught us off guard, the pilot’s safe recovery and the proactive response from the recovery team highlight the effectiveness of military protocols and teamwork.
As more details emerge, it is crucial to continue prioritizing safety and adherence to established procedures to maintain readiness and professionalism. This incident is a testament to the dedication of those who work tirelessly to ensure our skies remain secure.