(USNewsMag.com) – After 28 hours of searching, the Pentagon recovered the debris of an F-35B stealth jet that went missing in South Carolina, and now the military is facing some embarrassing questions about how they managed to lose an $80 million aircraft.
After going missing on Monday, the jet was found 85 miles away from its home on Tuesday. According to a spokesperson for the base in Charleston, for reasons that “haven’t yet” been determined, the transponder on the jet malfunctioned. The transponder is designed to help locate each aircraft.
The jet’s pilot was forced to eject due to an unexplained issue. The Joint Base in South Carolina then had to issue a public announcement asking for help with finding the aircraft that went missing after the pilot abandoned it.
A report on Wednesday revealed that the pilot now claims that bad weather is the reason he lost the plane and that he likely ejected himself before activating the tracking system. Because the aircraft is a stealth jet, it’s designed to be difficult to track when such systems are engaged.
The pilot, whose identity remains confidential, landed in a residential neighborhood of Charleston, where he was brought to a local hospital, where he stayed briefly before being discharged.
After the incident, the Marine Corps issued a stand-down order, grounding all of its aircraft inside and outside the country (with special exceptions). The two-day standdown is meant to allow time for leadership to discuss operational and combat-ready standards, which is not an unusual procedure after such an incident, according to a retired Air Force general.
How the craft went missing is still under investigation, although the situation is raising some questions about the cost-effectiveness of the stealth jet program. The cost of defense is among the expenses currently under scrutiny as Congress scrambles to come up with a new budget that will avoid a government shutdown.
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