A United States Marine Corps fighter jet has unexpectedly crashed in Beaufort County, South Carolina, according to CNN. The incident in question took place just before noon on Friday, September 29, details The Guardian.
The pilot, a United States marine, was thankfully able to successfully eject from the aircraft before it plunged earthward. He was then immediately triaged and assessed by medical personnel.
An official press release from the United States Marine Corps posted to popular social media platform Twitter further details the particulars of the incident, claiming that the precise time of the crash was 11:45 a.m. local. Promising an investigation into the precise cause of the crash — which is eminently clear given the massive $115 million price tag of the lost equipment and dangerously close call for the pilot — the press release also makes it known that there were no civilian casualties connected to the incident.
The F-35 Lightning II is a product of Lockheed Martin Corporation and is offered in two standard varieties. The F-35A, or more common variant, will be the mainline fighter jet for the American military, costing about $90 million per unit. The F-35B, notably more rare and the design involved in Friday’s crash, is projected to cost approximately $115 million per unit.
The cost differential is accounted for by the fact that the F-35B possesses the capability to land without necessitating the use of a runway and requires a much shorter space to perform a successful take-off. The technology, commonly known as STOVL — or short take-off and vertical landing — is reminiscent of an older design by British manufacturer Hawker Siddeley in the 1960s. As detailed by The Register, The Harrier Jump Jet — which was capable of vertical take-off and landing, or VTOL — was an innovative and uniquely useful design that was hampered only by its unforgiving aerodynamics and inability to perform this feat under a full payload.
Just a day previous, the F-35B joint strike fighter was successfully deployed against a fixed target in Afghanistan in its first combat mission, Military Times reports. The strikes, undertaken by a number of jets assigned to the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit, were considered to be a success by the responsible ground force commander.
While this event marks the first time that the American armed forces have deployed the new jets, the Israeli air force had already employed the high-tech fighters in two separate air strikes during the month of May — taking place against unnamed targets somewhere in the Middle East.