An F-35B Lightning II made by Lockheed Martin. (Photo by US military)
The United States military has claimed that it found its lost F-35 jet fighter, curbing the further spread of a major embarrassment.
US authorities announced on Monday that a debris field from the Marine Corpsí crashed F-35 stealth fighter jet had been found.
The jet had reportedly crashed in South Carolina after the pilot ejected, thus ending the US militaryís embarrassment over what had happened to the $80mn state-of-the-art aircraft.
Reports said the crashed planeís debris field was located in rural Williamsburg County. Marine Corpsí Joint Base Charleston claimed the debris field is about two hours northeast of the base, and residents were being asked to avoid the area while the recovery team worked to secure it.
Authorities had been searching for the jet since the pilot, whose name hasnít been released, ejected from it and parachuted to safety into a North Charleston neighborhood about 2 p.m. Sunday. He was taken to a hospital, where he was in stable condition, Marines Maj. Melanie Salinas said.
The Marine Corps announced on Monday it was pausing operations for two days after the fighter jetís crash - the third costly accident in recent weeks. Gen. Eric Smith, the acting commandant of the Marine Corps, ordered the stand-down while authorities searched near two South Carolina lakes for the missing FB-35B Lightning II aircraft.
Itís the third event documented as a "Class-A mishap" over the past six weeks, according to a Marine Corps announcement. Such incidents occur when damages reach $2.5 million or more, a Department of Defense aircraft is destroyed, or someone dies or is permanently disabled.
Commanders will spend the stand-down reinforcing safe flying policies, practices and procedures with their Marines, according to the Monday release.
The announcement gave no details on the two previous incidents. But in August, three US Marines were killed in the crash of a V-22B Osprey tiltrotor aircraft during a training exercise in Australia, and a Marine Corps pilot was killed when his combat jet crashed near a San Diego base during a training flight.
Cpl. Christian Cortez, a Marine with the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing, said the search for the fighter jet in South Carolina was ongoing Monday. Exactly what happened was under investigation, he said.
In the meantime, US National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said on Monday that the Pentagon will investigate the matter and be transparent about the disappearance of the much-touted F-35 jet.
Has anyone seen my F-35?
The news of the incident hit the headlines across the globe on Sunday, with media outlets immediately making numerous jokes about it.
US military officials had appealed in online posts on Sunday for any help from the public in locating the aircraft.
"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," the base said on X, formerly known as Twitter.
One major British news agency started a trend by quoting US military officials asking, "Anyone seen my F-35?
The jokes spread across social media platforms.
Based on the missing planeís location and trajectory, the search was focused on the two bodies of water in the area, Lake Moultrie and Lake Marion, both north of North Charleston.
That could suggest the jet may have crashed into the water, which would make it difficult to locate, adding fuel to the fire of major embarrassment for the US military.
According to the aircraftís manufacturer, Lockheed Martin, the F-35ís main advantage, is that it is nearly impossible to track.