World News

Debris found in search for F-35 jet – authorities

  • By Brandon Drenon & Max Matza
  • BBC News, Washington DC

Image source, Getty Images

Image caption,

A file photo of F-35 jet seen at San Francisco’s fleet week

Debris has been found in the search for an F-35 military jet that went missing after the pilot ejected over South Carolina, say US military officials.

The debris of the $100m (£80m) plane – which disappeared on Sunday afternoon – was discovered in rural Williamsburg County, said authorities.

The pilot ejected from the cockpit and parachuted to safety in a North Charleston neighbourhood.

The public had been asked to help find the jet.

In a statement on Monday, military officials said the debris was found “two hours north-east of Joint Base Charleston”.

Officials had focused their searches around Lake Moultrie and Lake Marion, north of the city of Charleston – the jet’s last known location.

The debris found has been confirmed as the wreckage of the missing plane, military officials tell BBC News.

The fighter jet was left in autopilot mode when the pilot ejected, a spokesman at Joint Base Charleston told NBC News, adding that it may have been airborne for some time, complicating its discovery.

“A plausible sequence of events is that when the pilot ejected, the electronics for the transponder were fried and thus the military was no longer able to track its location,” JJ Gertler, a senior analyst at the Teal Group, a defence consultancy, told the BBC during the search for the plane.

“The entire cockpit would have been subjected to rocket exhaust and so all of the electronics, the chips, may well have not survived that, including the system that signals where the airplane is,” Mr Gertler said.

“If it did go into water, that signal would not be able to be found,” he added.Mr Gutler said it is possible that the aircraft continued flying after the pilot ejected but that it was “extremely unlikely” due to “the damage the aircraft would have received from the ejection seat” and “the change in aerodynamics when the canopy is gone”.

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Video caption,

Watch: This is what the missing F-35 US military jet looks like

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