Stand-down order as $150m jet vanishes

US military officials have found debris in their search for a missing F-35 jet after a “mishap” caused its pilot to eject and the fighter plane to subsequently go missing.

Joint Base Charleston, a major air base located in South Carolina, said on Facebook that the aircraft was a Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II belonging to Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, 110km south of Charleston, reports Fox News.

Each F-35 costs around $155 million.

The pilot ejected safely and was transported to a local medical centre – but the plane was initially nowhere to be found.

Debris from the stealth fighter jet was later found northeast of Joint Base Charleston.

Marine Corps issue ‘stand-down’ order

Following the incident, the Marine Corps acting commandant Eric Smith ordered a two-day stand-down for all aviation units inside and outside the United States, ABC News reports.

That means no Marine Corps units are allowed to fly.

The Pentagon said the pause would allow for a discussion on “aviation safety matters and best practices.”

The spokesman cited the missing jet, the recent crash in Australia and an F-18 crash.

Three US Marines died on August 27 after an MV-22B Osprey aircraft crashed north of Darwin during military drills.

Last month an F-18 pilot died after a crash during a training flight near San Diego.

Urgent search for missing aircraft

The base was working with Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort to help locate the missing aircraft. Emergency response teams were deployed to find the jet.

“Based on the jet’s last-known position and in co-ordination with the Federal Aviation Authority, we are focusing our attention north of JB Charleston, around Lake Moultrie and Lake Marion,” Joint Base Charleston said in a statement on Facebook.

“The public is asked to co-operate with military and civilian authorities as the effort continues,” the base added.

Hampering the search was the large amount of sparsely populated swamp and marsh land in South Carolina.

The aircraft plays a key role to both achieve dominance in air space and to perform strikes. It is used by many countries globally, including the Royal Australian Air Force.

Taking to Twitter, now known as X, US congresswoman Nancy Mace asked: “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?”

The Marine Corps told the BBC that its information on the incident was “limited” and “under investigation”.

A second F-35 flying at the same time, returned safely to the base in Charleston.

Originally published as F-35 jet debris found after pilot ejects during ‘mishap’

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