A U.S. Air Force F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (Lightning II) jet flying.

Michael Fitzsimmons/Shutterstock (Licensed)

‘Like a lost cat’: U.S. military can’t find fighter jet on autopilot after actual pilot ejected

The military wants you to call them if you happen to spot their $75 million jet.


Katherine Huggins


Posted on Sep 18, 2023

The U.S. military has requested the public’s assistance in locating an F-35 that went missing somewhere over South Carolina—and may still being flying unmanned—after its pilot ejected because of a “mishap.”

“The pilot ejected safely and was transferred to a local medical center in stable condition,” Joint Base Charleston wrote in a Facebook post. “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,” the base added.

A spokesperson for Joint Base Charleston—Jeremy Huggins—told NBC News that the jet was left in autopilot mode when the pilot ejected, meaning there is a possibility that the F-35 could still be airborne.

The mishap has come under intense criticism—and mockery online—with many social media users pondering how losing a modern fighter jet is even possible.

“How in the hell do you lose an F-35?” asked Rep. Nancy Mace (R-South Carolina). “How is there not a tracking device and we’re asking the public to what, find a jet and turn it in?”

Others mocked the fact that a $75 million aircraft has disappeared.

“this kinda shit almost makes me proud to be an american,” another wrote. “no other country could both build a weapons platform as advanced as the f-35 and then just lose the fucker and have to ask folks to let them know if it turns up, like a lost cat.”

Many joked about just how stealthy the jet actually was, while others jokingly questioned whether finding it meant they could keep it.

“If I find it, can I keep it?” wrote someone else.

Another account joked: “This was not on my bingo card for 2023.”

Marveled someone else: “How do you misplace an F-35?”

Lockheed Martin has boasted of the jets’ stealth qualities and describes the F-35 series as the “most advanced fighter jet in the world.”

If you happen to see an F-35 jet somewhere—especially if it appears to be pilot-less—Joint Base Charleston is asking that you contact them.

“If you have any information that would assist the recovery teams, please call the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing Public Affairs Office at 252-466-3827,” the base wrote on Facebook.

One Facebook user joked in a comment: “Okay !! All of us that played ‘Where’s Waldo’ as a child this is our time to shine !!”

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*First Published: Sep 18, 2023, 11:31 am CDT