(Washington) How can you lose a fighter plane costing at least $80 million? Since the United States Army launched an appeal to citizens to help find an F-35, missing following an “incident”, many Americans have been asking the question, between amused amazement and dismay.
The (very) stealthy plane disappeared on Sunday, according to the military base in Charleston, South Carolina. And its pilot was able to eject “in complete safety”, added the army, without specifying why he had to resort to this extreme option normally synonymous with imminent danger.
But since then the expensive aircraft, the flagship of American naval aviation, has been nowhere to be found.
“If you have any information that could help our teams locate the F-35, please call the Base Defense Operations Center,” Joint Base Charleston wrote on X.
An unusual call which immediately sparked a myriad of reactions.
“We knew that the F-35 was stealthy, but this is ridiculous,” said a Republican representative from South Carolina, Nancy Mace, on X.
“How the hell do you lose an F-35?” How is it possible that there is no monitoring system and that the population is asked… imagine what? To find a plane and hand it over to the authorities? she added.
One of the spokespersons for the Charleston base explained to the Washington Post that the device did have a transponder – a receiver-transmitter allowing it to be located – but that it was not working “for a reason that we have not yet determined”.
“This is why we have launched a public appeal for help,” continued the spokesperson, Jeremy Huggins.
Authorities have so far limited themselves to saying that based on the last known position of the highly sophisticated F-35B Lightning II, the search was focused on an area north of Charleston, near Lakes Moultrie and Marion.
“We are still collecting the information,” another base spokesperson said Monday. “The investigation is ongoing.”
On X, amused, even mocking, comments multiplied about this device belonging to the very prestigious United States Marine Corps.
Internet users notably shared fake wanted posters photoshopped on trees: “F-35 missing. $500 reward.”
And because the United States has provided billions of dollars in military aid to Kyiv, many were sharing a photo – also manipulated – of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky all smiles, posing in front of a fighter jet. “Did you guys look at Ukraine? », pretended to ask an Internet user.
President Zelensky is insistently asking the West for combat planes to fight against the Russian invasion.
Opponents of Democratic President Joe Biden also took the opportunity to attack his government.
“Only under the Biden administration can the US military lose an $80 million F-35 in the air,” squeaked conservative commentator Benny Johnson in a post on X.
A popular theory on social media is that the plane went into “zombie” mode, meaning it flew – or still flies – on autopilot.
Nothing has come from the authorities on this subject. But in 1989, a Soviet MIG-23 leaving Poland crashed near Kortrijk, Belgium, after traveling more than 900 km without a pilot – his own had also ejected from the aircraft.