The US military has appealed for help from the public to find a £65m F-35 fighter jet that went missing in South Carolina and could still be flying in a “zombie state” after its pilot ejected.
The F-35, one of the most advanced combat aircraft in the world, vanished from radar on Sunday afternoon after an undisclosed “mishap” that led to the unnamed pilot ejecting and parachuting to the ground. The pilot is now said to be in a stable condition in hospital.
But the fate of the jet is no clearer and the US military is now seeking help with the ongoing search.
“Personnel from Joint Base Charleston and Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort are responding to a mishap involving an F-35B Lightning II jet,” posted Joint Base Charleston in a Facebook post late on Sunday. “Emergency response teams are still trying to locate the F-35.”
“The public is asked to co-operate with military and civilian authorities as the effort continues. If you have any information that would assist the recovery teams, please call the JB Charleston Base Defense Operations Center at 843-963-3600.”
A military spokesperson said the search was focusing on Lake Moultrie and Lake Marion, north of the jet’s last known position.
Military authorities say the F-35 was set on autopilot prior to the pilot’s ejection. Military news website The War Zone notes that there have been several cases of military aircraft going missing in a “zombie state”.
In 1988, A Soviet Mig-23 flew from Poland to Belgium on autopilot after the pilot ejected. In 1970, the “Cornfield Bomber” F-106 landed safely in a Montana field after the crew had bailed out.