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Debris from missing military jet has been located in South Carolina

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

The military says it has found the crash site of a cutting-edge stealth fighter jet that went missing over South Carolina Sunday. The pilot ejected from the Marine F-35B after it suffered an unnamed mishap and the plane just kept going. Jay Price of member station WUNC has more on yesterday's discovery.

JAY PRICE, BYLINE: The wreckage was found in a rural county about two hours northeast of Charleston. The Marine Corps hasn't revealed many details about the incident. Here's Corporal Christian Cortez, a spokesman for the unit the plane was attached to.

CHRISTIAN CORTEZ: We can confirm a mishap involving the F-35 Bravo Lightning II jet from Marine Fighter Attack Squadron VFMAT-501 with 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing. The pilot safely ejected from the aircraft, and the mishap is still currently under investigation.

PRICE: The F-35 Lightning II costs about $80 million. It's the military's newest stealth fighter, and it is stealthy. In certain conditions, it apparently shows up on radar about as well as an object the size of a golf ball. It has the latest advanced systems for navigation, radar, radar jamming, targeting. And this one was a version built especially for the Marine Corps and could actually take off and land vertically. So far, it's unclear why the pilot ejected, how the crash site was finally found or why it took so long to locate the wreckage.

WARD CARROLL: These little things can get extrapolated to big things.

PRICE: That's Ward Carroll. The retired Navy commander has a popular YouTube channel that focuses on military aviation, including dissections of complicated crashes. The amount of time the F-35 was missing and the fact that the military posted requests on social media for the public to call in tips prompted a flood of memes and online jokes. Carroll is enjoying the jokes but says the incident raises real questions.

CARROLL: So what else have we lost? What else don't we know? We don't know where our own airplanes are. How do we know where the Chinese airplanes are - or ships?

PRICE: He says he's as baffled as anyone else about how this plane, with all its cutting edge systems, could've been so hard to find. Meanwhile, late Monday, the acting Marine commandant, General Eric Smith, weighed in. There have been three major crashes of different kinds of Marine aircraft in the past six weeks. Citing those, he announced a two-day pause in operations for all Marine Corps aviation units to refocus on safety and proper practices.

For NPR News, I'm Jay Price in Chapel Hill, N.C.

(SOUNDBITE OF HIBISCUS' "BLURRY STARS") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Jay Price is the military and veterans affairs reporter for North Carolina Public Radio - WUNC.
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