Parts of F-35 military jet found in Williamsburg Co.; Joint Base Charleston releases statement

Published: Sep. 18, 2023 at 1:42 PM EDT|Updated: Sep. 18, 2023 at 7:27 PM EDT
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FLORENCE COUNTY, S.C. (WMBF/WCSC) – A debris field of parts of a missing F-35 military jet has been found in Williamsburg County, according to Joint Base Charleston.

The Joint Base Charleston confirmed in a statement Monday afternoon that personnel from the Joint Base Charleston and Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort had located the debris field with the help of local law enforcement in Williamsburg County.

The debris field is two hours northeast of Joint Base Charleston.

Authorities block of Bartells Road in Williamsburg County as teams search for the missing F-35...
Authorities block of Bartells Road in Williamsburg County as teams search for the missing F-35 military jet.(Source: WMBF News)

The Florence County Sheriff’s Office and other agencies have helped in the search for the military jet. Joint Base Charleston said search teams used both ground and air assets to find the expensive piece of military equipment.

“We appreciate the support we’ve received from our mission partners and every organization involved, as integrated teams are searching and preparing for the recovery of the jet.”

Since locating the debris field the incident command has been transferred to the U.S. Marine Corps to begin the recovery process.

Members of the community should avoid the area as the recovery team secures the debris field.

“We would like to thank all of our mission partners, as well as local, county, and state authorities, for their dedication and support throughout the search and as we transition to the recovery phase,” the statement read.

Joint Base Charleston said on Sunday the military jet disappeared after the pilot had to eject after a “mishap.” The pilot was taken to the hospital and is recovering.

Public Affairs Specialist Jeremy Huggins told our sister station, Live 5 News in Charleston, that the incident involved a Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort F-35B Lighting II jet from Marine Fighter Attack Training Squadron (VMFAT) 501 with the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing.

Rep. Nancy Mace, who represents the 1st Congressional District, said she was briefed Monday on the ongoing search for the jet by the U.S. Marine Corps, but said not much information was provided on the plane’s whereabouts.

RELATED COVERAGE | ‘A local emergency’: Search for missing F-35 continues after ‘mishap’; Plane could still be flying

“And guess what: They didn’t have any answers. They don’t know if the plane is in the air or under the water. They could not tell me the precise location of where the pilot ejected or where the pilot landed,” she said.

Mace told Live 5 News that she has asked for a separate briefing with people who would be able to provide answers. She said that she has received a lot of phone calls from those who are upset over the lack of transparency and information.

“And we’re talking about an $80 million jet. How does it just disappear? And how does the Pentagon ask for the public’s help in finding it?” she said. “It’s just a huge embarrassment.”

She added that the missing F-35 jet has become a local emergency and a public safety issue.

The U.S. Government Accountability Office called the F-35 program the Department of Defense’s “most expensive weapon system program.”

The estimated cost for the program is nearly $1.7 trillion for the aircraft and systems.