The Pentagon has a habit of misplacing resources, but this is getting ridiculous.
On Sunday, military officials in South Carolina announced that they had lost an F-35B Lightning Jet II fighter. The aircraft vanished mid-flight, and officials sought the public’s help in locating it.
Skepticism, of course, should accompany all government announcements. In this case, Americans might raise eyebrows over both the missing aircraft and certain details officials neglected to emphasize.
According to the entertainment news site MEAWW, the aircraft went missing around 2 p.m. EST Sunday when the pilot — for unknown reasons — ejected somewhere over North Charleston, South Carolina.
The F-35B belonged to Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort.
After the unexplained ejection, Joint Base Charleston made a public appeal for assistance.
“We’re working with @MCASBeaufortSC to locate an F-35 that was involved in a mishap this afternoon. The pilot ejected safely. If you have any information that may help our recovery teams locate the F-35, please call the Base Defense Operations Center at 843-963-3600,” Joint Base Charleston wrote Sunday on X, formerly Twitter.
We’re working with @MCASBeaufortSC to locate an F-35 that was involved in a mishap this afternoon. The pilot ejected safely. If you have any information that may help our recovery teams locate the F-35, please call the Base Defense Operations Center at 843-963-3600.
— Joint Base Charleston (@TeamCharleston) September 17, 2023
Should someone be held accountable for this missing jet?
Of course, the military did not share all the details via social media.
Jeremy Huggins, spokesman for Joint Base Charleston, told The Washington Post on Sunday that the aircraft’s transponder was not working “for some reason that we haven’t yet determined,” and “that’s why we put out the public request for help.”
Likewise, the F-35B defies detection under normal circumstances.
“The aircraft is stealth, so it has different coatings and different designs that make it more difficult than a normal aircraft to detect,” Huggins added.
According to The War Zone, a military-focused news site, fighters abandoned mid-flight have been known to continue vast distances on autopilot and even to survive the crash landing.
In 1970, for instance, a U.S. Air Force F-106 Delta Dart landed intact in a cornfield after the pilot ejected. Likewise, in 1988 a Soviet MiG-23 cruised from Poland to Belgium without its pilot, who had ejected shortly after takeoff.
The modern F-35B, according to The War Zone, “has considerable reach” and thus could have flown hundreds of miles on autopilot.
More than 24 hours later, the aircraft remains missing. Therefore, it most likely crashed either in a rural area or over the ocean.
Naturally, social media expressed skepticism.
“Hilarious to read that a F-35 has gone for a joy ride. Conspiracy theory time – 1. It’s actually a crashed UFO and government is creating a cover story 2. Bomber has been given to Ukraine and this bs story to cover the tracks,” one user posted on Monday.
Hilarious to read that a F-35 has gone for a joy ride.
Conspiracy theory time –
1. It’s actually a crashed UFO and government is creating a cover story
2. Bomber has been given to Ukraine and this bs story to cover the tracks.
— @N0ty0ur0pinion (@N0ty0ur0pinion) September 18, 2023
A missing (and now presumably crashed) F-35B might seem like small potatoes in the military’s smorgasbord of waste.
“According to some estimates we cannot track $2.3 trillion in transactions,” Rumsfeld said. Of course, the events of the following day helped bury the story while giving rise to decades of conspiracy theories.
The story here involves not only the financial waste of the lost aircraft but also the trickle of relevant information.
After all, Joint Base Charleston’s initial post asked the public to “help our recovery teams locate the F-35.” It made no mention of the possibility that the aircraft could have continued on autopilot for hundreds of miles.
In any event, the fate of the missing F-35B remains a mystery. Stay tuned.