The Marine Corps has issued a directive for aviators to pause their operations for two days due to increasing concerns about a missing F-35 stealth jet.
The acting commandant of the Marine Corps on Monday ordered a two-day “safety stand down” for all aviation units this week as the search continued for an advanced F-35 Lightning II jet fighter that crashed near Charleston, S.C. on a training run.
In the past six weeks, Gen. Eric M. Smith acknowledged three significant incidents involving Marine Corps aircraft.
The Marine Corps stated that aviation commanders will be responsible for leading discussions with their Marines during the safety stand-down. These discussions will primarily focus on the basics of safe flight operations, ground safety, maintenance, flight procedures, and ensuring combat readiness.
The F-35 was designated to Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, located approximately 65 miles southwest of Charleston. The pilot, whose identity remains unknown, successfully ejected following an incident described as a “mishap” involving the fighter jet. Currently, there have been no findings of the aircraft itself.
Joint Base Charleston, belonging to the Air Force, is the military base in closest proximity to the anticipated location of the crash.
The Air Force stated that they are directing their attention towards the area north of the base, specifically around Lake Moultrie and Lake Marion.
According to state officials, Lake Moultrie and Lake Marion are extensive reservoirs constructed in the 1940s with the purpose of supplying electricity to rural residents of South Carolina. Lake Marion boasts a shoreline exceeding 315 miles, while Lake Moultrie’s shoreline measures approximately 210 miles.
Rep. Nancy Mace has sharply criticized the Marine Corps over the missing F-35 jet. The South Carolina Republican’s district covers much of the area where the search is taking place.
“I cannot reword.”
Ms. Mace expressed that the Marine Corps has not been transparent with her office regarding the absence of the $100 million aircraft. When she requested a briefing on the progress of the search operation, she mentioned that the Marines organized one of the briefest meetings she has ever participated in.
“I received no briefing from the USMC, and neither did my staff. It is surprising that they had no answers,” Ms. Mace expressed on X.
According to Avgeekery.com, the F-35 pilot reportedly ejected from the aircraft when it was only a few thousand feet above the ground. The last radar contact was made northeast of Lake Moultrie. Avgeekery.com stated that the pilot was later found in a residential neighborhood in the North Charleston area.
Marine Corps pilot Major Andrew Mettler was killed on August 25, 2023, when his F/A-18D Hornet crashed near Marine Corps Air Station Miramar outside San Diego, California. And on Aug. 28, 2023, three Marines were killed in the fiery crash of their V-22 Osprey tiltrotor aircraft. The incident happened during a multinational training exercise in Australia.
The inquiry into the two deadly airplane accidents is still ongoing.
The Marine Corps announced on Monday that they will be temporarily halting flying missions for two days. This decision has been made in order to prioritize the maintenance of combat-ready aircraft and ensure the readiness of pilots and crew members.
Marine Corps officials stated that this temporary halt is aimed at dedicating time and effort to strengthen the existing policies, practices, and procedures within the Marine aviation community. The primary goals are to prioritize public safety, safeguard the well-being of Marines and sailors, and uphold the readiness and proficiency of the Marine Corps as a formidable fighting force.