U.S. Military Officials Find Debris Field During Search for Missing $80M Stealth Fighter Jet

US military officials in South Carolina have found debris in the search for a missing $80 million stealth fighter jet. The plane went missing on Sunday after its pilot ejected.

On Monday, Joint Base Charleston confirmed in multiple social media posts that personnel from the air base and Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort located a debris field in Williamsburg County.

The debris has been identified as the remains of an F-35B fighter jet, a Marine Corps and defense official told CNN.

“Members of the community should avoid the area while the recovery team secures the debris field,” Joint Base Charleston said in a statement. “JB Charleston is transferring command of the incident to the USMC tonight as they begin the extraction process.”

The “accident” is still under investigation, the statement continued, adding that officials “are unable to provide additional details in order to preserve the integrity of the investigative process.”

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Before the recent discovery, JB Charleston called on the public to help in the search for the missing jet. Because of this, both the community and public officials questioned what happened.

“How the hell do you lose an F-35?” US Representative Nancy Mace from South Carolina wrote on X (formerly known as Twitter) Sunday. “How come there’s no tracking device, and we’re asking the public to, what, find the jet and turn it in?”

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Before the debris was discovered, base spokesman Jeremy Huggins said The Washington Post that the F-35 transponder was not operational. Additionally, the jet’s stealth technology hides the aircraft from radar detection, which complicates the search for missing equipment.

“The aircraft is stealth, so it has different coatings and different designs that make it more difficult to detect than a normal aircraft,” Higgins said. Fast.

After the incident, the base reported The “last known position” of the F-35 aircraft it was “north of JB Charleston, around Lake Moultrie and Lake Marion.”

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Teams from Joint Base Charleston, Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing from MCAS Cherry Point, Navy Region Southeast, FAA, Civil Air Patrol and local South Carolina authorities all joined the search, according to Joint Base Charleston officials.

“We would like to thank all of our mission partners, as well as local, county and state authorities, for their commitment and support throughout the search and as we move into the recovery phase,” the statement said.

Late Monday, Gen. Eric M. Smith, acting commandant of the Marine Corps, ordered all naval aviation units to halt all operations for two days, the Marine Corps said in a news release. The decision follows an “accident” in South Carolina, as well as two other accidents in August.

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“During the suspension, Air Force commanders will conduct discussions with their Marines focusing on the fundamentals of safe flight operations, ground safety, flight maintenance and procedures, and maintaining combat readiness,” the Marine Corps said in a statement. “This suspension is being undertaken to ensure that the service maintains operational standardization of combat-ready aircraft with well-prepared pilots and crews.”

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“This waiver invests time and energy in strengthening the established policies, practices and procedures of the Naval Aviation Community and ensures that the Marine Corps remains a ready and highly trained fighting force,” the statement concluded.

A spokesman for Joint Base Charleston did not immediately respond to PEOPLE’s request for additional information on Monday.

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