A debris field in Williamsburg County, South Carolina, was located during the search for a missing F-35 fighter jet. The US Marine Corps initiated a two-day stand-down to reinforce aviation safety measures following a series of recent mishaps.
On September 17, 2023, a USMC F-35B fighter jet went missing in South Carolina after the pilot was forced to eject from the aircraft. The F-35 was reportedly set on autopilot when the pilot ejected, meaning that the stealth fighter continued to fly until it exhausted its fuel supply. Consequently, the US military sought public assistance to locate the aircraft.
Late on September 18, 2023, Joint Base Charleston in South Carolina announced that personnel from the base and from Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, in close coordination with local authorities, had successfully located a debris field in Williamsburg County.
The discovery of the wreckage, approximately 70 miles (112 kilometers) northeast of Joint Base Charleston, prompted efforts to secure and investigate the crash site.
In a separate statement, the USMC has directed all its aviation units to conduct a two-day stand-down in flight operations following three Class-A aviation mishaps involving Marine aircraft over the past six weeks.
Though the three incidents were not specified, they most likely include:
- The F-35B crash on September 17, 2023
- An F/A-18D Hornet crash during a training flight in the vicinity of Marine Corps Air Station Miramar on August 24, 2023
- A V-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft crash during an exercise in Northern Australia on August 27, 2023
“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,” the USMC explained. “This stand down is being taken to ensure the service is maintaining operational standardization of combat-ready aircraft with well-prepared pilots and crews.”