“How in the hell do you lose an F-35?” South Carolina Republican Representative Nancy Mace wrote on X Sunday night, adding, “How is there not a tracking device, and we’re asking the public to what, find a jet and turn it in?”
On Sunday afternoon, Joint Base Charleston, an air base in North Charleston, was working with Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort to “locate an F-35 that was involved in a mishap“. The pilot ejected safely from F-35B Lightning II, but there were no immediate crash reports.
The fact that the $140 million stealth fighter disappeared without any reports of a crash means it might have gone down in a sparsely populated area. The Drive pointed out, “The DoD is saying the F-35B was put on autopilot prior to the ejection.”
Military expert and former British military officer Frank Ledwidge told Newsweek the F-35 “could likely travel hundreds of miles without its pilot.”
“Historically, an aircraft without a pilot can fly a long way on autopilot,” added Frederik Mertens, a military analyst with the Hague Center for Security Studies.
The Washington Post quoted Jeremy Huggins, a spokesman at Joint Base Charleston, who said the F-35’s transponder was not working “for some reason that we haven’t yet determined.”