BusinessHow does the US military lose a plane?

How does the US military lose a plane?

Last week, footage from a theater in Denver tracked Representative Lauren Boebert’s every misbehavior while on a date to see Beetlejuice the musical, yet the U.S. military cannot seem to locate a state-of-the-art fighter jet.

And it’s so unsure of its whereabouts that it’s recruited the public’s help.

Authorities said on Monday that the plane, an F-35, was “involved in a mishap” the previous afternoon while traveling near Charleston, South Carolina, and as a result had somehow managed to disappear.

What sort of “mishap” are we talking about?

The pilot, who hasn’t been identified, took off from Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort. It’s unclear why the pilot needed to abandon the aircraft, but the pilot ejected and parachuted to (relative) safety—authorities say the person was admitted to a local medical center and reported to be in stable condition yesterday.

A spokesperson for the base told the Washington Post that the plane’s transponder, used to locate it in situations like these, wasn’t operating “for some reason that we haven’t yet determined,” adding there were no additional updates to share on Monday morning.

South Carolina Congress member Nancy Mace made it clear last night that she is unimpressed with the military’s search capabilities.

So this plane crashed?

That’s the twist! The F-35 is equipped with one of the most advanced stealth modes in existence, and the plane was apparently “left in autopilot mode.” Authorities at Joint Base Charleston are therefore not ruling out the possibility that the jet could still be airborne, God knows where.

But where?

The plane’s last known position is all authorities are releasing publicly right now, and they say it was in the area around Lake Marion and Lake Moultrie—the state’s largest and third-largest lakes, covering a combined ginormous span of some 265 square miles.

This is not a “finders, keepers” situation, then?

Absolutely not. The particular type of fighter jet in question here, the F-35B Lightning II, built by Lockheed Martin, costs no less than $78.3 million according to recent disclosures, and it is among the most advanced planes made by Lockheed. Lockheed describes the F-35 series as “the most lethal, survivable, and connected fighter jet in the world,” as well as “the centerpiece of 21st century global security.”

The Lightning II gets name-dropped in Top Gun: Maverick. The Navy entertains using it for the airstrike on the unsanctioned uranium plant because it’s such an awesome plane, but picks the Super Hornet instead, after deciding the F-35’s radar would be too vulnerable to surface-to-air missiles during the team’s mission. (Also, perhaps not coincidentally, the F-35’s cockpit just holds a single pilot, meaning less potential for Hollywood drama in that scene.)

Choosing the Super Hornet may have been for the best anyway, considering the F-35’s performance lately. Sunday’s incident isn’t the only recent “mishap.” In December, another F-35 crashed at a naval air station in Forth Worth, Texas. A bystander filmed the plane coming in for what starts as a soft-looking landing, but then the aircraft nose-dives into the tarmac, forcing the pilot to eject as it spins in circles:

What if I see the missing plane?

You should probably call 843-963-3600 and tell the military.

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