While America’s military-industrial complex is busy shilling for $21 billion in additional aid for president Joe Biden’s flailing proxy war in Ukraine, a not-so-funny incident involving one of the U.S. Marine Corps (USMC) next generation fighter planes unfolded in rural South Carolina earlier this week.
The drama began on Sunday (September 19, 2023) when the pilot of a stealth Lockheed Martin F-35B Lightning II fighter plane based at Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Cherry Point in Havelock, North Carolina ejected from his plane following a “mishap.”
That prompted officials at Joint Base Charleston – located adjacent to the Charleston International Airport in North Charleston – to post a much-pilloried message seeking assistance from the public in locating its $90 million plane.
“If you have any information that may help our recovery teams locate the F-35, please call the Base Defense Operations Center,” the message noted, referencing coordinated efforts with MCAS Beaufort, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and other military and civilian agencies.
Seriously? Help us find our missing jet?
The government’s milk carton appeal prompted all manner of conspiracy theories on social media – most notably that the jet had been remotely hijacked by China and flown to an airstrip in Cuba.
On Monday evening – more than twenty-four hours after the military’s initial appeal for assistance – a “debris field” was identified in Williamsburg County, S.C. approximately two hours northeast of Charleston. Officials confirmed shortly thereafter the wreckage in the debris field was that of the missing jet.
“We are transferring incident command to the USMC this evening, as they begin the recovery process,” a statement from the Charleston base noted.
Shortly thereafter, USMC acting commandant general Eric M. Smith ordered a “two-day stand down in operations” of all Marine aircraft in the aftermath of the crash – the third major incident involving a Marine aircraft within the last six weeks.
“During the stand down, aviation commanders will lead discussions with their Marines focusing on the fundamentals of safe flight operations, ground safety, maintenance and flight procedures, and maintaining combat readiness,” a release announcing the stand down noted. “This stand down is being taken to ensure the service is maintaining operational standardization of combat-ready aircraft with well-prepared pilots and crews.”
U.S. congresswoman Nancy Mace blasted the loss of the jet – and the ensuing governmental ham-handedness.
“How in the hell do you lose an F-35?” Mace wrote on X. “How is there not a tracking device and we’re asking the public to what, find a jet and turn it in?”
RELATED | NANCY MACE VEEPSTAKES: BUZZ BUILDS
“Our community deserves basic, minimum answers,” Mace noted in a follow-up message, saying the government did not appear to be in possession of “basic, minimum information” related to the crash.
The crash is the latest problem to plague the much-maligned F-35 program – which this news outlet repeatedly criticized as “the poster project for Pentagon waste and incompetence.” Since I last dogged it out, its cost has soared to more than $1.7 trillion.
Recent reports indicate the F-35 continues to struggle. Earlier this month, Lockheed Martin announced additional delays in delivering the latest versions of these jets – delays which the head of America’s air combat command, general Mark Kelly, made clear would have an adverse impact on American military readiness.
Actually, there already are impacts. The myriad failures of the F-35 program – combined with the accelerating sophistication (and production) of next generation Chinese J-20 and Russian Su-57 fighters – has made it impossible for America’s armed forces to keep pace with the escalating rhetoric of its most strident warmongers.
That’s the real lesson of this lost jet … its exposure of the extent to which our erstwhile empire is ill-equipped to dictate terms to anyone right now. We lost the moral high ground a long time ago. Along with our sense of what truly constituted a compelling national interest. Now we are losing our tactical advantage, too.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR …
Will Folks is the founding editor of the news outlet you are currently reading. Prior to founding FITSNews, he served as press secretary to the governor of South Carolina. He lives in the Midlands region of the state with his wife and seven (soon to be eight) children.
WANNA SOUND OFF?
Got something you’d like to say in response to one of our articles? Or an issue you’d like to proactively address? We have an open microphone policy here at FITSNews! Submit your letter to the editor (or guest column) via email HERE. Got a tip for a story? CLICK HERE. Got a technical question or a glitch to report? CLICK HERE.