A U.S. Marine Corps F-35B Lightning II stealth fighter jet recently went missing over South Carolina, flying on autopilot for around 60 miles before crashing in a wooded area. However, the pilot safely ejected before the crash, parachuting into a residential backyard.
This incident has raised many questions about what caused the F-35 fighter jet, the most expensive and advanced military aircraft ever built, to malfunction and crash.
The F-35 Fighter Jet
The F-35 Lightning II is the U.S. military’s newest stealth fighter jet. It was built by Lockheed Martin, and it is designed to evade radar detection and penetrate enemy defenses without being spotted.
The single-engine jet is considered the world’s most advanced and lethal fighter aircraft. Moreover, it comes in three variants: the F-35A for the Air Force, F-35C for the Navy, and F-35B for the Marine Corps. The crashed jet was an F-35B stationed at Beaufort as part of Marine Fighter Attack Training Squadron 501.
What Happened to the F-35 Fighter Jet?
On Sunday, September 18, 2023, an F-35B fighter jet departed on a routine training flight from the Marine Corps Air Station in Beaufort, South Carolina. At around 11:30 AM, the pilot radioed he was experiencing a malfunction and requested to eject from the aircraft at an altitude of 1,000 feet, one mile north of Charleston International Airport.
After the pilot ejected, the $100 million jet continued flying on autopilot for around 60 miles before crashing in a wooded area near Indiantown, South Carolina.
The jet was located by authorities the next day after an overnight search.
What Caused the Crash?
The cause of the malfunction and crash remains under investigation by the military. Furthermore, Officials have not released any details about the nature of the malfunction the pilot reported before ejecting from the aircraft yet.
One theory is a possible computer glitch or cyberattack that affected the jet’s fly-by-wire controls, leading to loss of control. The jet is heavily software-dependent and has over 8 million lines of code controlling its avionics and flight systems.
According to Former Marine Dan Grazier, who works at a Defense watchdog, “There are thousands of penetration points, weaknesses in the entire enterprise that a hacker could access the software.”
What Happened to the Pilot?
“The pilot ejected successfully and is in stable condition, awaiting additional medical treatment. There were no civilian injuries or property damage reported at the time of the mishap,” said 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing spokesman Capt. Aaron Hicks.
In other words, the pilot managed to safely eject from the jet’s cockpit after the in-flight emergency using the fighter jet’s ejection seat. He landed with minor injuries in a backyard in the Charleston area.
F-35 Fighter Jet Ejection Seats
The ejection seats in the F-35 are really advanced. They are designed to autonomously eject pilots and save their lives in emergencies. Moreover, they use advanced sensors, servos, and algorithms to determine the optimal timing and ejection trajectory based on aircraft speed, altitude, and attitude.
Conclusion: What’s next?
In summary, the recent crash of the advanced F-35 fighter jet in South Carolina has puzzled everyone, especially military officials.
For the time being, flight operations on those jets are paused until they find answers to this mystery to prevent future crashes.
“We have initiated a grounding of all F-35s while we conduct a thorough review of each aircraft to ensure full airworthiness,” said Lt. Gen. Eric Smith, Commander of the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing.
And Maj. Gen. Bradford Gering, Commander of the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, explained, “During the stand-down, we will reinforce maintenance procedures, flight safety protocols, and pilot checklists across the F-35 fleet.”