The debris of an $80m Marine Corps F-35 fighter jet that went missing when its pilot ejected during a “mishap” has been found in a South Carolina field after a day-long search.
Officials with Joint Base Charleston confirmed that debris from the jet had been located in the Indiantown area of Williamsburg County, reported TV station WCBD.
Joint Base Charleston said the incident involved an F-35B Lightning II jet from Marine Fighter Attack Training Squadron (VMFAT) 501 with the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing.
Officials said in a statement on Monday evening that the debris was located two hours northeast of Joint Base Charleston.
“Members of the community should avoid the area as the recovery team secures the debris field,” the statement read.
“The mishap is currently under investigation, and we are unable to provide additional details to preserve the integrity of the investigative process. We would like to thank all of our mission partners, as well as local, county, and state authorities, for their dedication and support throughout the search and as we transition to the recovery phase.”
The search for the jet began on Sunday after its pilot was found on South Kenwood Drive in North Charleston after safely ejecting and was taken to a medical centre in stable condition.
Officials say that the jet had been left on autopilot when the pilot ejected, and although it would have remained airborne for a while by Monday they were sure it was not still flying.
All Marine Corps aircraft, in the US and abroad, were grounded in the wake of the incident, according to an order issued by General Eric Smith, the acting commandant of the Marines.
Marine aircraft with imminent missions or abroad were told they could delay the order but have to stand down for two days this week, reported NBC News.
During the standdown, units would “discuss aviation safety matters and best practices”, while Marine Corps leadership would use the time “to ensure the service is maintaining operational standardization of combat-ready aircraft with well-prepared pilots and crews.”