The United States Marine Corps is missing one of its fighter jets – and is now asking the public for help in finding the machine.

According to the US Army, the pilot of the plane was traveling in the airspace over the state of South Carolina on Sunday afternoon (local time) when he left the plane using the ejection seat. Why is unclear. Officials spoke either of an “accident” or a “mishap,” but did not elaborate.

The pilot landed with his parachute and was taken to a hospital, it said. His condition is stable. The pilot of another F-35 returned safely to his base.

However, there was still no trace of the wreckage of the crashed aircraft the day after. It couldn’t be located yet. Specialists were supposed to track down the machine, but had no success until Monday morning. According to media reports, helicopters were also in use. The US Army called on the population via social media to help search for the fighter jets – including a telephone number for relevant information.

It is apparently unclear how long the stealth aircraft remained in the air after the pilot got out. Given the calculated flight path, the search is now focused on Lake Moultrie and Lake Marion in the region, a spokesman for the air base in charge said, according to the Associated Press news agency.

If the autopilot was still activated, the jet fighter could have continued to fly for quite some time. There are plenty of examples of this from history. In 1988, for example, a Soviet MiG-23 flew around 900 kilometers from Poland to Belgium without a pilot after the pilot left the plane shortly after takeoff. One person on the ground died when it crashed.

Local Congresswoman Nancy Mace wrote about the incident on the short messaging service The Washington Post, citing Marine Corps officials, reported that the jet’s tracking transponder failed for an unknown reason.

The price for an F-35 example was given in 2020 at around 85 million US dollars (around 80 million euros). According to manufacturer Lockheed Martin, around 1,000 aircraft of this type have been built so far. Germany also wants to procure a variant of the model for the air force.

Quellen: Associated Press, Joint Base Charleston, Nancy Mase, “Washington Post”, Lockheed Martin