Lockheed Martin Corp. is the manufacturer of the F-35, a single-seat fighter craft used by militaries around the world. The aircraft was a vertical take-off version used by in the Marine Corps. The jet is prized for its stealth qualities that make it difficult to detect by radar.
“We are aware of the mishap and are thankful the pilot ejected safely,” Lockheed said in a statement. “We are supporting the government’s investigation.”
The F-35 program, the most expensive U.S. weapons program ever, is projected to cost $412 billion in development and acquisition, plus an additional $1.2 trillion to operate and maintain the fleet over more than 60 years. A single jet can cost more than $160 million, depending on the variant. They are flown by the Air Force and Navy as well as the Marines.
It’s not the first time an F-35 has been in trouble. An F-35B version crashed in 2018 in Beaufort County, South Carolina, because of a manufacturing defect in a fuel tube, according to a Government Accounting Office’s report. The following year, a Japanese F-35A stealth fighter plunged into the ocean during an exercise over the Pacific Ocean, which Japan blamed on pilot disorientation, rather than technical issues.
The missing aircraft in the U.S. swiftly drew online mockery, from postings with Missing-Jet fliers on lamp posts and notices on milk cartons, to mashed-up Dude, Where’s My F-35 movie posters.
“How in the hell do you lose an F-35?” South Carolina Republican Representative Nancy Mace said on social media. “How is there not a tracking device and we’re asking the public to what, find a jet and turn it in?”
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