Video has emerged of the downed fighter jet that military officials lost track of yesterday during a mishap that saw the pilot safely eject, showing a catastrophic trail of debris that leaves no doubt the $80 million aircraft was destroyed upon impact.
In the clip circulating on X, scenes of the wreckage could be seen amid an open field where deep grooves in the soil were formed by the 30,000-pound aircraft. The Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II, considered the military’s most advanced fighter jet, is believed to have impacted a series of trees as it was obliterated.
The shocking incident occurred Saturday over a joint military base in Charlston, South Carolina, leading to the base pleading on its Facebook page for the public’s help in locating the downed jet. It is unclear why the pilot chose to eject, but rumors swirled that the possibility of hackers breaching the jet’s software could not be eliminated.
On X, South Carolina Congresswoman Nancy Mace (R-SC) asked, “How the hell do you lose a fighter jet?” and said she is “frustrated” by the Marine Corps’ lack of transparency around the accident.
“How is there not a tracking device and we’re asking the public to what, find a jet and turn it in?” she continued.
The F-35 Lightning II is the U.S. military’s most expensive aircraft, with the U.S. Defense Department estimating the construction and maintenance of a single jet costs $1.7 trillion over its lifetime. The military owns several thousand Lighting II jets spread across the Air Force, Navy, and Marines. Lockheed Martin, which produces the Lightning II, estimates no more than 220 can be built per year.
With advanced sensors, information fusion and network connectivity, the Lighting II redefines modern air warfare’s capabilities. Its ability to simultaneously engage ground and air targets, gather intelligence and share information with other platforms makes it an exceptionally capable fighter jet.
The development of the F-35 Lightning II has been referred to as a “boondoggle” for U.S. taxpayers, leading some to question whether the military’s continual pursuit of a multi-function fighter jet is worth the end cost. In this case, Lockheed Martin and the U.S. military joined forces to pursue a jet that had both long-range capabilities as well as nimble flight maneuvering, a combination that has saddled taxpayers with hundreds of billions of dollars in costs.