Does the U.S. government really not know where an F35 jet is after the pilot ejected?

By Robert Willmann

You cannot make this stuff up. Cost estimates vary, but they all amount to millions and millions of dollars per airplane. Since (at least) Sunday, 17 September 2023, a Lockheed Martin F35 military jet is said to be missing after the pilot ejected over South Carolina. The plane kept flying. A report said there was a second plane flying with the one in question, and it later landed. If so, why did it not follow the wayward F35?

Forbes Magazine quotes Jeremy Huggins, a spokesperson for Joint Base Charleston, who said that the F35 “was left in autopilot mode when the pilot ejected”, and also [1]:

“… [He told] the Washington Post on Monday that officials asked for the public’s help because the jet’s transponder, which helps locate the aircraft, was not working ‘for some reason that we haven’t yet determined’.”

Wow! The only way to track the fancy jet is with a regular transponder, like a Cessna single propeller, piston engine training airplane. If that is true, then everyone at Lockheed Martin and in the Department of Defense who is involved in the F35 project needs to be told, “You’re fired!” If not, then something else is going on. After all, Lockheed Martin says that: “The F35 is the most advanced node in 21st Century Warfare”, and “Securely connecting high-tech platforms”, and “seamlessly sharing information across every domain”….

Well, the plane is not seamlessly sharing information about where it might be, we are told. If they are that incompetent, then changes must be made. Otherwise, please don’t bullsh*t a bullsh*tter.


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24 Responses to Does the U.S. government really not know where an F35 jet is after the pilot ejected?

  1. rick says:

    I guess the stealth is working.

  2. Master Slacker says:

    My sentiments, exactly.

  3. TTG says:

    The wreckage was just found 75 miles north of Charleston.

  4. blue peacock says:

    Debris from $80M stealth fighter jet is recovered in a field two hours north of Charleston after pilot ejected on Sunday and plane continued in ‘zombie mode’ – sparking Pentagon to GROUND all models

    Why is all media reporting hysterical?

    • TTG says:

      blue peacock,

      The most hysterical reporting was claiming China hacked the plane and landed it in Cuba.

      Why did the wingman not pursue the plane? Because he stayed with the ejected pilot as he should have. Why was the plane not tracked on radar? The “cockpit mishap” could have been an electrical failure that shut off the transponder. Without that transponder, it was truly a stealth aircraft.

      • ked says:

        no reports of aliens?
        I’m shocked. never been a big fan of the F-35 program. believe the F-16E/F, F/A-18 Super Hornet, F-15EX & F-22 all together (even the Warthog!) would hold us over until unmanned nextgen fighters could be fully developed & integrated into our aviation forces. “if the B=52 can last a century, maybe some of these other AC have a long life in ’em”. fortunately for hot-shot pilots & The Industry no one listen to me. none-the-less, I enjoy airshows & related videos on YT. we may be critical of everything our MIC & policy-makers do, but this recent posting from Lakenheath may have some guys in Moscow concerned in a different way. {be advised, this guy Ted is highly enthused… & posts some great videos}

      • Whitewall says:

        Or just simply hacked to crash it.

      • Mark Logan says:


        Re: Why not tracked on radar?

        Away from the big city hubs there are very large low altitude gaps in FAA air traffic control radar coverage. Departing from a great many small airports one is cleared to some point initially, and you climb, awaiting air traffic control to announce “radar contact”. This can be several thousand feet above the surface. Some places out west it can be over 5,000ft above ground. I would guess the F35 in question was flying relatively low when the incident occurred, and if so, it is no surprise it might not have been on radar. There is another issue, ATC radar operators normally have their screens set to show only transponder returns as every aircraft these days is equipped with a transponder and, even when not under control, are squawking. They have to switch displays to get primary radar returns displayed, and unless they have done that, it is not captured by the recorders at ATC installations.

        • TTG says:

          Mark Logan,

          This morning I saw a TV report interviewing some farmer about his sighting of the plane before it crashed. He said it was flying very low before he heard a loud noise presumably from a crash. Don’t know how low that was, but I see Marine aircraft, mostly Ospreys and a few Hornets and Harriers, flying damned low over my house a few miles south of the Quantico ranges. I’m pretty sure the F-35 had a transponder for training mission in CONUS. It had to malfunction or be turned off for it not to be tracked. Without that transponder, flying low level and being a stealth aircraft, I doubt it would be tracked on any ATC radar.

          • Mark Logan says:


            That makes sense, but unless you hit the IDENT button transponders transmit only in response to a radar hit with the appropriate interrogation signal, so if it was out of line of sight from the radar antenna it wouldn’t matter if it was on or off.

          • TTG says:

            Mark Logan,

            Never knew how they worked. Thanks for the info. All the more reason for the F-35 to missing for a day.

            Back on Hawaii, my platoon was out in mountain jungle for three days searching for parts of a crashed OH-58. We were roping up and down ridges looking for parts necessary for the investigation. Found them, but it wasn’t easy.

          • Mark Logan says:

            Sounds like the operation to get all the bits of the A10 warthog which was deliberately crashed by its suicidal pilot. Where he decided to end it all was nearly a sheer cliff, only about 15 miles from Vail, but o-boy, what a 15 miles to travel. Took three weeks just to find it and something like a 100 helicopter trips to crane it all out.


  5. English Outsider says:

    Can’t honestly see what the fuss is about. It’s an extremely advanced aircraft. All advanced stuff has glitches at the start of its service life. So there was a glitch of some sort. Pilot safe. Very fortunately the plane hit nothing. Where’s the story?

    Dunno what we’re doing buying them for the UK though. Lockheed Martin: –

    “The F-35 is more than a fighter jet, it’s a powerful force multiplier with advanced sensors and communications suites operating close to the battlefield and from an elevated position significantly enhancing the capabilities of networked airborne, maritime, space, surface and ground-based platforms. This significantly enhances situational awareness and survivability for the pilot – and the entire joint force – and equips the commanders with critical capabilities and information in seconds.”

    Force multiplier. Great. Significantly enhancing the capabilities of networked airborne, maritime, space, surface and ground-based platforms.

    I recollect Ritter acknowledging once that the UK army was a first rate fighting force. As it still is. But then he spoilt it all by calling it the Benjamin Button of militaries. I think he followed up that bon mot by stating it’d have no trouble fitting into a football ground.

    As usual with Scott Ritter, more accurate than tactful so he promptly lost a fan. Me. But if HMG carries on cutting defence forces as it has been, what British airborne, maritime, space, surface and ground based platforms is this machine supposed to enhance the capabilities of? A few squaddies with peashooters the way things are going. Looks like some sharp-suited Lockheed Martin salesman has spotted another mug. HMG.

  6. Yeah, Right says:

    Maybe a Chinese Spy Balloon took a photo of the wreckage as it drifted over and Beijing informed the Pentagon where they could find their stuff?

  7. F&L says:

    “And in other news our correspondents are pleased to report that five fully armed B-52 Stratofortress Bombers which were flying over the north pole when they disappeared from radar screens ….”

    “No, not that story.”

    “OK. A nuclear capable F-35 Stealth fighter-bomber, uh, disappeared .. but … then … it seems to have … uh … cra – a – shh – … ”

    That’s better.

  8. d74 says:

    A joke, as harsh as all jokes in a world where you’d better not confuse a wild duck with one of God’s children:

    The proposed video, like many others from Locked-Martin, is so good that one wonders if this company shouldn’t be concentrating on commercials rather than producing military hardware.

  9. Fred says:

    Hunt For Red October, AF style. I wonder if there’s an oriental connection?

  10. TV says:

    More of the same from the military bad joke that hasn’t won a war since 1945.

    • F&L says:

      Our caption contest winner for this challenge from our archives was a descendant of the Air Force Captain who was married to Jeannie on the hit TV Show ‘I Dream Of Jeannie.’
      His winning caption entry for this one was the surprising one-worder: “Bewitched.”
      During our interview he confessed that he wins most of his awards by submitting caption entries which are either titles of TV Shows, Movies or Plays or names of Books. We asked him if he hadn’t considered entering “Sky King” as the caption for this one and he said he thought that was a really funny idea, and he wished he’d thought of it.

      Texas jet pilot ejects from F-35B at Air Base.

  11. walrus says:

    Military jets often fly with transponder in standby mode. A stealth aircraft with transponder not operating? It had better be invisible to ATC radar or I want my money back!

  12. John Minehan says:

    “How the hell do you lose an F-35?”—Rep. Nancy Mace (R–SC)

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