The military found a debris field Monday afternoon near the base where an F-35 fighter jet had gone missing after a U.S. Marine pilot ejected from it Sunday afternoon, launching a two-day public search for the missing aircraft.
Officials with Joint Base Charleston, the South Carolina base where the jet came from, announced Monday the debris field was discovered in Williamsburg County, South Carolina, two hours north of the base.
The discovery comes amid a two-day-long search in which military personnel recruited the public’s assistance in finding the jet, going so far as to post on social media and work with the press to ask residents that might’ve seen the fighter jet to call a hotline they’d set up.
Though the military has yet to officially confirm that the debris field is where the fighter jet crashed, this appears likely to end the search.
The search began Sunday when officials from Joint Base Charleston said there was “a mishap” and they were searching for an F-35 that had gone missing after its pilot ejected. Jeremy Huggins, a spokesperson for Joint Base Charleston, told the Washington Post Monday the jet’s transponder, which is used to locate the aircraft, wasn’t working properly, and he didn’t know why. Additionally, the F-35 was in autopilot mode when its pilot ejected, Huggins told NBC News on Monday. This means there’s a possibility the aircraft remained airborne long after it went missing. The search involved a number of governmental agencies including the Second Marine Aircraft Wing, the Civil Air Patrol, Navy regional authorities in the Southeast and the Federal Aviation Administration. The pilot of the fighter jet safely ejected from the aircraft and is in stable condition, Joint Base Charleston said in a Facebook post Sunday evening.
What We Don’t Know
It’s unclear why the pilot ejected or who the pilot is.