Missing F-35 jet crash could warrant action from Congress, US lawmaker says

Clean-up crews sort through debris field after jet's crash in Charleston, South Carolina

A US Marine Corps F-35B Lightning II jet flies past during a preview of an airshow in Singapore. AFP

A senior US politician on Tuesday said the recent loss of an F-35 fighter plane could merit congressional action, as military clean-up crews comb through the recently discovered debris field following a mysterious crash.

Officials located the crash site in rural South Carolina on Monday, after the stealth fighter went missing at the weekend following the ejection of the pilot.

Adam Smith, ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee, said he was “considering whether congressional action is needed to address this and other recent aviation mishaps”.

“Ejections and crashes are an unfortunate reality due to the inherent risks that pilots face in combat and in training,” he said in a Tuesday statement.

“Given the gravity of those risks, I am very glad to hear that the pilot is safe … I am also looking forward to receiving more information about what led to the incident and the efforts to find the aircraft.”

The debris field was discovered about two hours north-east of Joint Base Charleston in South Carolina. Officials have asked residents to avoid the area during recovery efforts.

“We are transferring incident command to the USMC [US Marine Corps] this evening, as they begin the recovery process,” the base posted Monday on X, formerly Twitter.

At the weekend, the military had asked the public to assist in locating the stealth fighter, characterising the mysterious ejection of the pilot as a “mishap”.

The base said in a Sunday Facebook post that the pilot was able to safely eject from the aircraft, an F-35B Lightning II jet, and was in a stable condition.

Made by Lockheed Martin, F-35 jets are known for their stealth capabilities. The F-35s, which have a price tag of more than $160 million, are described by Lockheed Martin as “the most lethal, survivable and connected fighter jet in the world”.

They are also the most expensive, costing the US taxpayer $1.2 trillion to operate and maintain the fleet over more than 60 years.

Updated: September 19, 2023, 4:38 PM