The F-35 aircraft went missing somewhere over South Carolina on Sunday
The U.S. military is searching for a missing $80 million stealth fighter — and they need the general public to help them find it.
On Sunday, Joint Base Charleston air base in South Carolina noted in multiple social media posts that it was assisting the Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort in searching for a missing F-35B Lightning II after it was involved in a "mishap."
"The pilot ejected safely and was transferred to a local medical center in stable condition," the base shared on Facebook. "Emergency response teams are still trying to locate the F-35."
"The public is asked to cooperate with military and civilian authorities as the effort continues."
Based on the jet’s last-known position and in coordination with the FAA, we are focusing our attention north of JB Charleston, around Lake Moultrie and Lake Marion.
— Joint Base Charleston (@TeamCharleston) September 17, 2023
On X (formerly known as Twitter), Joint Base Charleston reported that the jet's "last-known position" had encouraged them to focus a search on the area "north of JB Charleston, around Lake Moultrie and Lake Marion."
Yet it might not be so easy. When the pilot ejected from the aircraft it was still in autopilot mode, base spokesperson Jeremy Huggins told NBC News, meaning it could possibly still be airborne.
Huggins also told the Washington Post that the aircraft's transponder was not functional “for some reason that we haven’t yet determined,” making it yet more difficult to locate the fighter jet — which features stealth technology that deliberately hides it from radar systems.
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Government officials have since questioned how the jet went missing, including Rep. Nancy Mace of South Carolina, who asked on X how someone can "lose an F-35."
"How is there not a tracking device and we’re asking the public to what, find a jet and turn it in," she added.
Huggins ultimately told the Washington Post that “the aircraft is stealth, so it has different coatings and different designs that make it more difficult than a normal aircraft to detect."
The base is asking anyone with information that would assist in uncovering the F-35's whereabouts to contact the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing Public Affairs Office at 252-466-3827.
The local search is also being conducted in coordination with the Federal Aviation Administration. It remains unclear why the pilot ejected from the jet.
A spokesperson for Joint Base Charleston did not immediately respond to PEOPLE's request for additional information on Monday.
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