Military technology experts suggest that the disappearance could be due to some flaw in the plane’s design or the activation of the post-ejection autopilot.
An F-35B fighter jet has been lost near Charleston, South Carolina, after the pilot ejected; The investigation and search are underway.
Details of the incident with the F-35B
Last Sunday, a Navy pilot was forced to eject from his F-35B near Charleston. While the pilot was found in good condition near Charleston International Airport, the jet’s exact whereabouts remain a mystery.
The topic has generated extensive discussion on the social network “X,” formerly known as Twitter. The range of said fighter aircraft exceeds 900 nautical miles, which is equivalent to around 1,000 standard miles.
The search is focused on areas near lakes Moultrie and Marion, as well as Joint Base Charleston. The latter has made a public appeal requesting cooperation and help in finding the jet.
Lockheed Martin and the ongoing investigation
Lockheed Martin, the manufacturer of the F-35, has expressed concern about the incident and is pleased that the pilot is safe. The firm is actively collaborating in the ongoing investigation.
Russ Goemaere, representative of the F-35 Joint Program Office, highlighted the importance of pilot safety and confirmed the collaboration with the USMC and other relevant actors in the investigation.
The jet belongs to the VMFAT-501 training squadron, and its technical design, focused on stealth capabilities, could complicate its location.
Theories arise about the possible activation of the post-ejection autopilot. However, a Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort spokesperson did not confirm this hypothesis and stressed that the investigation is ongoing.
Teal Group analyst JJ Gertler speculated that if autopilot was active, the F-35 likely ran out of fuel. Although pilotless flight is feasible, eventually, the laws of physics prevail.
Aerodynamic implications of ejection
The removal of the aircraft’s cover, added to the damage caused by the pilot’s ejection, can have serious consequences on its aerodynamics. Beyond the physical impact, there is concern that the ignition of the ejection seat’s rocket motor may have affected the main cabin electronics.
Based on meticulous analysis of the flight path, it is hoped to refine predictions about the location of the F-35. The plane’s vertical takeoff and landing capabilities suggest that the debris would be close to the ejection point if it had been gliding.
Complicating the scenario, it was reported that the F-35 ‘s transponder was not operational. If the plane had crashed after takeoff, the transponder must have been active at that low altitude.
Stealth and underwater search capabilities
The F-35’s advanced stealth design makes it elusive to radar detection. It frequently uses a Lunenberg lens to magnify its radar signature, which could complicate search operations.
Based on current information, it is expected that the F-35 will eventually be located on the lake bed. This would be the third underwater recovery of an F-35, after precedents in Japan and the United Kingdom.
Despite the technical explanations, doubts persist among officials about the situation. The magnitude of the event leads to questioning these cutting-edge aircraft’s monitoring and safety protocols.
Political reactions and questions
Nancy Mace, a prominent Republican representative, expressed her bewilderment at the incident, questioning the possibility of losing an aircraft as advanced as the F-35. Her statements reflect the skepticism of many about the effectiveness of tracking devices built into the aircraft.
Mace’s implicit question points to security implications: “Can a civilian really locate and return such an aircraft?”