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Mon, Sep 25, 2023

Bizarre 911 Call Pertained to Downed USMC F-35B

“We’ve Got a Pilot in Our House … ”

On Sunday, 17 September 2023, amidst the tedium of reports citing treed cats and fender-benders, a Charleston County, South Carolina 911 operator received a call from a private citizen who promptly set forth: “We’ve got a pilot in our house, and he says he got ejected.”

The interloping pilot, whose name remains undisclosed, had, moments before, been at the controls of a United States Marine Corps F-35B fighter jet.

“I’m sorry,” the 911 operator startled, “what happened?”

"We've got a pilot in the house, and I guess he landed in my backyard, and we're trying to see if we could get an ambulance to the house, please," the caller explained.

Likely sensing the 911 operator’s skepticism, the pilot took the phone, stating: "We have a military jet crash. I’m the pilot. We need to get rescue rolling. I’m not sure where the airplane is. It would have crash-landed somewhere. I ejected."

The pilot prevailed upon the 911 operator for news of reports of an F-35B gone down in the local area. No such reports had been turned in however.

In fact, nearly 24-hours would pass before the $80-million fighter aircraft’s wreckage was located in rural northeastern South Carolina.

The debris field resultant of the aircraft’s coming to ground was discovered in the Palmetto State’s Williamsburg County—some sixty-nautical-miles northeast of Joint Base Charleston. The downed F-35B was assigned to U.S. Marine Fighter Attack Training Squadron 501, which is based at Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, South Carolina and falls administratively under Marine Aircraft Group 31 and the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing.

Area residents were asked to remain clear of the crash-site while recovery teams worked to secure the F-35B’s wreckage and the wealth of proprietary technologies represented by such.

Joint Base Charleston set forth in a statement: “We are transferring incident command to the USMC this evening, as they begin the recovery process. … Members of the community should avoid the area as the recovery team secures the debris field.”

The jet’s disappearance subsequent to its pilot’s unscheduled rapid disembarkment baffled military and civilian experts alike. Uncontrolled high-speed meetings of aircraft and ground incline toward conspicuousness, and the abject lack of knowledge of the USMC and FAA vis-à-vis the downed F-35B’s whereabouts drew widespread criticism.

In the wake of the U.S. military’s solicitation of the public for information pertaining to the missing jet, popular local Republican congresswoman Nancy Mace inquired: “How in the hell do you lose an F-35? How is there not a tracking device, and we’re asking the public to, what, find a jet and turn it in?”

On the Instagram platform known as Threads, actor Misha Collins wrote under a photo of an F-35: “That’s what they get for leaving the keys in the ignition. In other news, check out my new listing on Craigslist. No lowball offers!”

Tim Robinson, editor in chief of Aerospace magazine, took to X (formerly Twitter), posting a photo of an F-35 on a golf course and a caption reading: “What’s the problem? I just sneaked off for a quick round of golf.”

The evanescent F-35B’s final known location and trajectory compelled searchers to focus initial recovery efforts on Lakes Moultrie and Marion—a pair of large, man-made bodies of water in central South Carolina. The Williamsburg County site at which the debris field was located is, in point of fact, relatively near the aforementioned lakes.

The means by which the jet’s wreckage was located remains undisclosed. It is known, however, that the search for such involved the USMC’s Second Marine Aircraft Wing, authorities of the U.S. Navy’s Southeastern region, the Civil Air Patrol, the FAA, and numerous South Carolina law enforcement agencies.

In a Monday, 18 September statement, the USMC reported: “The mishap is currently under investigation, and we are unable to provide additional details to preserve the integrity of the investigative process.”

In a separate 18 September statement, the USMC disclosed Acting USMC Commander General Eric M. Smith had ordered all Marine Corps aviation units to stand-down for purpose of conducting a two-day “pause in operations.” USMC officers were directed to utilize the stand-down to reinforce policies, practices, and procedures germane to safety-of-flight with personnel under their respective commands.

Lockheed-Martin’s F-35 Lightning II is produced in three principal variants: the Conventional Take-Off and Landing (CTOL) F-35A operated by the United States Air Force, the Short Take-Off and Vertical-Landing (STOVL) F-35B operated by the U.S. Marine Corps, and the carrier-based F-35C operated by the U.S. Navy.

In 2021, the United States Air Force conducted the TacAir study, an investigative enterprise that examined the tactical requirements of U.S. combat aircraft in future conflicts. The study’s results compelled Air Force chief of staff General Charles Q. Brown to concede the F-35 program had failed to achieve its goals. General Brown further set forth that little reason existed to believe the F-35 platform would ever deliver on its designer’s promises.

According to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO), over the seventeen-years since the F-35’s 2006 entry into U.S. service, the aircraft, in all its incarnations, has consistently demonstrated a miserable dispatch availability—about half-that of the USAF’s Regan-era F-15E fleet.

The CBO determined mission-availability of all three F-35 variants, in 2022, ranged from a dismal 54-percent to an only-slightly-less-dismal 58-percent.

The $1.7-trillion F-35 program is the most expensive military undertaking in the history of humankind. The First and Second World Wars combined cost American taxpayers $320-billion, a mere 18-percent of the F-35’s total program costs. Notwithstanding its epic, eye-watering price-tag, the F-35’s lack of availability has occasioned supposition among Pentagon brass that the advanced, sixth-generation aircraft will never become the workhorse machine it was envisioned to be. Instead, the Lightning II—after the fashions of Vought’s F-7U Cutlass and Convair’s B-58 Hustler—may well wind up an overpriced, temperamental embarrassment relegated to niche roles at the periphery of U.S. national defense.



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