The Limitless Flight: F-35 Holds Autonomous Potential to Soar for ‘Hundreds of Miles’ on Unyielding Autopilot


{{The U.S. Marines’ missing F-35B fighter jet could travel for hundreds of miles on autopilot after its pilot ejected mid-flight and the U.S. military appealed for public help in locating the advanced aircraft, according to experts.}}

The U.S. Marines’ Missing F-35B Fighter Jet: What Experts Say About Its Capabilities

In a recent incident, an F-35B Lightning II stealth fighter jet belonging to the U.S. Marines went missing after its pilot ejected mid-flight. The U.S. military has reached out to the public for assistance in locating the advanced aircraft. Military experts and analysts have shed light on the situation, highlighting the impressive capabilities of the F-35B jet.

The Potential Range of the Missing F-35B

Experts suggest that the F-35B fighter jet could potentially travel for hundreds of miles on autopilot, depending on the amount of fuel it had at the time of the incident. Military expert and former British military officer Frank Ledwidge stated that historically, an unmanned aircraft can fly a long distance on autopilot. Frederik Mertens, a strategic analyst with the Hague Center for Security Studies, echoed this sentiment, emphasizing that an aircraft without a pilot can travel a significant distance without human intervention.

An Overview of the Mishap

The F-35B Lightning II stealth fighter jet was involved in a mishap, as stated by military officials based in Charleston, South Carolina. The pilot safely ejected and was taken to a nearby medical center in stable condition. The term “mishap” encompasses a wide range of scenarios, referring to any unintended occurrence in the Air or Space Force that results in death, injury, illness, or property damage.

A F-35 Lightning II stealth fighter at the Bethpage Airshow on May 28, 2022, in Wantagh, New York. The unaccounted-for U.S. Marines’ F-35B was “involved in a mishap,” military officials said on Sunday.
Erica Price/Getty Images

The Search Efforts

Given the last known position of the F-35B, search efforts are predominantly focused around Lake Moultrie and Lake Marion, between Charleston and Columbia, according to the military base. These bodies of water serve as the primary areas of interest in determining the whereabouts of the missing aircraft, which belonged to a training squadron within the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing.

The Advancements of the F-35B Fighter Jet

The missing F-35B is part of an elite class of aircraft known as fifth-generation fighters. Manufactured by Lockheed Martin, these stealth aircraft are among the most advanced in the world. They are utilized not only by the U.S. Marine Corps but also by the British Royal Air Force and Italy’s air force. The F-35B is capable of taking off in very short distances or even vertically, showcasing its exceptional performance. Each F-35 comes with an approximate price tag of $80 million, attesting to its advanced technology and capabilities.

Unique Features and Challenges in Locating the Missing Aircraft

Jeremy Huggins, a spokesperson at Joint Base Charleston, highlighted the stealth nature of the F-35B, making it more difficult to detect compared to conventional aircraft. The jet’s design, coatings, and specific features contribute to its ability to evade detection. This aspect poses a challenge in locating the missing aircraft. Additionally, the F-35B’s transponder, which aids in the identification of aircraft, was not functioning at the time of the incident, further complicating the search efforts.

Similar Incidents and Public Cooperation

While the situation of an aircraft continuing to fly after the pilot has ejected may seem unusual, it is not unprecedented. In 1989, a Soviet MiG-23 crashed in Belgium after flying hundreds of miles from where the pilot had ejected. The U.S. military has called upon members of the public to cooperate with both military and civilian authorities in the ongoing search. They urged individuals to share any information that may aid in locating the missing F-35B by contacting the Base Defense Operations Center.

Past Incidents and the Temporary Grounding of the F-35B Fleet

This recent incident is not the first involving an F-35B in South Carolina. In 2018, another F-35B crashed in the state, resulting in the temporary grounding of the entire fleet of these advanced fighter jets. Such incidents highlight the importance of comprehensive investigations and safety protocols to ensure the continued reliability and operation of the F-35B and its counterparts.

Newsweek has reached out to Joint Base Charleston and Lockheed Martin for comment but has not received a response at the time of writing.

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Micheal Kurt

I earned a bachelor's degree in exercise and sport science from Oregon State University. He is an avid sports lover who enjoys tennis, football, and a variety of other activities. He is from Tucson, Arizona, and is a huge Cardinals supporter.

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