After an F-35B Lightning Bolt fighter jet went missing over South Carolina on Sunday and was found on Monday afternoon, the acting commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps has ordered a stand down for safety.
Such stand downs are common after accidents, but jets going missing over American soil are not common. The incident has led to speculation, dark humor, and online social media insults to the competence of the Department of Defense.
In a press release, Acting Commandant Gen. Eric Smith announced the stand down for all Marine aviation units. Over the past six weeks there were two fatal accidents and now a stealth fighter went missing.
The jet was found in Williamsburg County, S.C., some 75 miles north of where the pilot ejected. The F35 could have flown hundreds of miles on autopilot without the pilot but appears to have crashed after perhaps a minute without a human on board.
The pilot landed in a neighborhood adjacent to Charleston International Airport. His wingman landed at Joint Base Charleston.
The base didn’t indicate where in Williamsburg County the crash occurred but local news outlets say a road in Indiantown was blocked off, according to WMBF. The Marine Corps will take over the investigation, now that the jet has been located.
The Marine Corps said “three Class-A aviation mishaps over the last six weeks” led Smith to direct all Marine Corps aviation units “to conduct a two-day pause in operations this week to discuss aviation safety matters and best practices.”
“During the safety stand down, aviation commanders will lead discussions with their Marines focusing on the fundamentals of safe flight operations, ground safety, maintenance and flight procedures, and maintaining combat readiness,” the release continues.
The other two aviation accidents include one in Australia that cost the lives of three Marines aboard an MV-22 Osprey, and another in California involving and F/A-18, also fatal to the pilot.
The Marine Corps had asked for the public’s help in locating the stray F-35.