Martin Lockheed, F-35 fighter jets, scandal, pilot ejected

Where Art Thou $100M U.S. Marines Fighter Jet? Inquiring Minds Want To Know

Defense manufacturer Lockheed Martin bills its F-35 fighter jets as “force multipliers,” but the aircraft has been involved in one boondoggle after another ever since the Pentagon awarded the military contract to the manufacturer.

The latest debacle involved a $100 million fighter jet that reportedly went missing for more than 24 hours after participating in a training exercise on Sept. 17 with the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing. According to a report from MSNBC, debris from the plane was discovered Sept. 18. At some point during the training flight, the pilot ejected from the cockpit and engaged the autopilot function, which prompted Joint Base Charleston to ask the public for sightings of the jet, as if the military was trying to locate a missing puppy. The bizarre situation sparked memes all over social media, with the public wondering how a fighter jet could go missing.

Debris was located approximately two hours northeast of Joint Base Charleston on the evening of Sept 18, which means the jet had been missing for a day and a half.

United States Marine Corps. Captain Joe Leitner described the situation as a mishap, telling NBC News, “The mishap is currently under investigation.”

While the pilot was located and treated for his injuries at an area hospital, Lockheed Martin’s crown jewel prompted a collaborative effort between the Marines, Navy, the FAA, the Civil Air Patrol, and local law enforcement in Charleston, but whatever circumstances created this situation was not made clear to the public. Authorities also believe that the craft could have remained in the air for an unspecified amount of time after the pilot ejected. 

This prompted a Republican Representative from South Carolina, Nancy Mace, to pointedly ask on Twitter/X,  “How in the hell do you lose an F-35?” Mace continued. “How is there not a tracking device, and we’re asking the public to what, find a jet and turn it in? 

Lockheed Martin has had a troubled history, dating back to 2001, when the company launched the Joint Strike Program, promising to have squadrons in the skies by 2010 at a bargain price of $233 billion. However, according to Vanity Fair, a decade after this initial promise, the plans for the planes had been marred by lax oversight, a bad development stratagem, numerous design flaws, and ever-increasing costs. The F-35 is, by a wide margin, the most expensive weapons project that the Department of Defense has taken on, costing a total of $1.7 trillion to buy, operate, and keep working. Even this astronomical price tag is under budget, because the program has yet to deliver on an essential combat simulator that is by this point, years overdue.

RELATED CONTENT: Lockheed Martin Invests $6 Million in STEM for Urban Schools