Just a day after authorities in the US were baffled as they could not locate the stealth F-35 fighter jet that went missing from the thin air after the pilot ejected, officials finally located Monday the debris of the million-dollar aircraft in South Carolina, as it urged people to help finding the missing plane.
Joint Base Charleston asked people Sunday on X, formerly known as Twitter, to “please call the Base Defense Operations Center” with any information to assist the recovery teams.
On Sunday afternoon, the pilot of the F-35B Lightning II jet had safely ejected from the aircraft.
“Personnel from Joint Base Charleston and @MCASBeaufortSC, in close coordination with local authorities, have located a debris field in Williamsburg County. The debris was discovered two hours northeast of JB Charleston,” the base said on X, thanking those who helped in solving the problem.
The military was under immense pressure to locate the debris of the stealth fighter jet as people were left in amazement at the inability of the country’s defence forces to find their own missing plane.
After the F-35 vanished over South Carolina Sunday, Joint Base Charleston (JBC) issued a desperate plea on social media, requesting anyone with information to come forward.
The fighter jet’s main advantages, according to manufacturer Lockheed Martin, are that it is nearly impossible to track with radar and is packed with advanced sensors and other gear.
JBC indicated that, based on the last-known position of the jet, the search efforts were concentrated around two large lakes north of Charleston, suggesting the possibility of a crash.
The F-35 Lightning II jet is highly sought after by US allies worldwide, particularly Ukraine.
“We are currently still gathering information. The investigation is ongoing,” a JBC spokesman told AFP earlier Monday.
The pilot ejected for unknown reasons and parachuted safely into a North Charleston neighbourhood — leaving the jet flying in what some called a “zombie state.”
In 1989 the pilot of a malfunctioning Soviet MiG-23 ejected over Poland and the jet continued to fly on autopilot until it crashed in Kortrijk, Belgium, more than 900 kilometres (560 miles) away.
The disappearance of a highly advanced aircraft that costs at least $80 million sparked incredulous comments online.
“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?” said Nancy Mace, a member of Congress representing the Charleston area.
Some posted manipulated photographs of lost signs on trees, offering rewards to find the missing jet.
One post showed Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky posing in front of an F-35, suggesting he took it.