The aircraft went missing after the pilot ejected near the Joint Base Charleston in South Carolina
A US Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort F-35B Lightning II jet experienced an unknown mid-flight emergency, forcing the pilot to bail out during a routine flight on Sunday. The authorities have asked the public to help locate the missing plane.
The military later said that debris was discovered "two hours northeast of Joint Base Charleston," South Carolina.
"Members of the community should avoid the area as the recovery team secures the debris field," the base said in a statement on X (formerly known as Twitter).
The incident happened around 2pm somewhere north of the base, with the authorities saying the pilot "ejected safely" from "an F-35 that was involved in a mishap this afternoon."
Local media outlet WLTX claimed that the pilot put the plane on autopilot before ejecting. The search operation is focused around Lake Moultrie and Lake Marion, according to the Joint Base Charleston's public affairs specialist, Jeremy Huggins.
"If anyone has any information that may help locate the F-35, you are asked to call the Base Defense Operations Center," the joint base officials wrote on X (formerly Twitter), adding that they are working with the Marine Corps and the Federal Aviation Administration to find the missing plane.
Last year, an F-35B crash landing at a base in Texas raised safety concerns about the aircraft, prompting the grounding of some planes for an investigation. The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) also temporarily grounded its F-35s at the time.
Touted by Washington and US-based arms and aerospace manufacturer Lockheed Martin as one of the most advanced fighter jets ever developed, the F-35 project has been a costly one for US taxpayers, who have footed the bill for a long series of delays, malfunctions, and cost overruns. Nevertheless, America's allies, including Canada, Germany, and Finland, have all lined up to buy the plane.