Crash of an F-35B: after intense searches, the crash site is discovered

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After a day of searching, the US Armed Forces discovered the crash site of the F-35B Lightning II. The pilot ejected but the plane continued to fly for some time before crashing to the ground. This loss represents the third aircraft destroyed in a crash for the USMC in a very short time. Its commander also ordered a pause in flights for two days.


On September 17, the pilot of a US Marine Corps (USMC) F-35B Lightning II fighter jet ejected from his aircraft. The pilot ejected and was quickly found. He was transferred to hospital and his life is not in danger. If the causes of the crash are not yet known, the Department of Defense (DoD) also had another problem regarding this incident: the remains of the plane were not found. The latter was able to fly very far because at the time of the ejection, the plane’s autopilot was working.

A reliable plane?

Apart from smaller incidents, Lockheed Martin’s flagship aircraft already includes 10 aircraft destroyed, including a majority of irrecoverable F-35As and Bs (i.e. 4 F-35As, 4 F-35Bs and 1 F-35C). . A Lockheed Martin spokesperson responded to CNN questioning whether the plane was reliable:

The global F-35 fleet has exceeded more than 721,000 cumulative flight hours, spanning 17 nations and all three branches of the United States armed forces. Since the F-3 began flying 17 years ago, there has been one pilot killed and fewer than 10 planes destroyed. More than 965 F-35s have been delivered and more than 430,000 sorties flown.” Regarding the deceased pilot, it is the Japanese F-35A lost at sea on April 19, 2019.

If the statistics can be impressive, it must be remembered that the F-35 program as a whole is a real financial pit for the Pentagon budget and in fact, a prime target for GAO reports (summary of GAO reports on the F-35), the equivalent of the Court of Auditors in France. The plane is also underpowered to the point that the F135 engine will be improved for Block 4 and subsequent variants and this is without counting the various delays following external causes (COVID, nearly 1,700 companies participating in the F-35 program, safety rules not followed, etc.) resulting in a delay of deliveries (example with the Belgian F-35s).

Means deployed

On September 18, civil and military air assets were deployed to search for the crash site:

  • a South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED) Bell 407 helicopter (N500SC)
  • three Civilian Air Patrol (CAP) Cessna 182 aircraft (CAP3973, CAP3990, CAP3935)
  • a US Air Force HC-130J Combat King II tactical transport aircraft (KING15)
  • a US Navy UC-12M Huron (King Air 200) light transport aircraft (FOXX840)
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