The U.S. Marine Corps announced late Monday night (Sept. 18) that the debris field of its missing F-35B Lightning II has been located in Williamsburg County, South Carolina. A Marine Corps spokesperson confirmed the debris was from the jet. The southern tip of the county is about 40 miles north of Charleston where the pilot ejected from the aircraft safely for as-yet-unknown reasons while on a training mission on Sunday afternoon (Sept. 17) near Joint Base Charleston.
The jet remained missing for more than 24 hours, leading Joint Base Charleston, a U.S. Air Force base adjacent to Charleston International Airport, to post a public appeal for any information on the location of the wreckage. According to news reports, the last known position of the aircraft was north of the city in the vicinity of Williamsburg County. Joint Base Charleston said in a statement, “Teams from Joint Base Charleston, Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing out of MCAS Cherry Point, Navy Region Southeast, the FAA, the Civil Air Patrol, as well as local, county, and state law enforcement across South Carolina have been working together to locate the U.S. Marine Corps F-35B.” The base later added, “Members of the community should avoid the area as the recovery team secures the debris field as they begin the recovery process.” Joint Base Charleston also announced it was handing further investigation of the incident over to the Marine Corps.
The incident has triggered a pause in USMC aviation operations: “Following three Class-A aviation mishaps over the last six weeks,” the service announced, “Acting Commandant of the Marine Corps, General Eric M. Smith, directed all Marine Corps aviation units to conduct a two-day stand down in operations this week to discuss aviation safety matters and best practices.” Topics to be discussed include “fundamentals of safe flight operations, ground safety, maintenance and flight procedures, and maintaining combat readiness.”
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