ARLINGTON, Va. (NewsNation) — The Pentagon provided few answers in a briefing Thursday after an F-35B fighter jet crashed this week in South Carolina, citing an ongoing investigation by the Marine Corps.
“It’s important that we not jump to conclusions, that we not speculate, that we don’t allow our imagination to fill gaps,” said Brig. Gen. Patrick Ryder. “We have a very methodical, very deliberate, very tried-and-true process that will take a look at exactly what the situation was, get the facts and then — as appropriate — apply those facts to prevent these kinds of things from happening again.”
The pilot of the $100 million stealth fighter jet parachuted safely into the backyard of a home in South Carolina after a malfunction forced him to eject from the aircraft, causing the plane to crash into a wooded area about 60 miles away.
A U.S. Marine Corps official who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to release details of the investigation into Sunday’s crash told The Associated Press the aircraft was not found until the next day. A state law enforcement helicopter located the jet and debris around 5 p.m. Monday in a field near Indiantown, South Carolina.
The pilot, who has not been identified by the Marine Corps, did not have serious injuries and has been discharged from the hospital.
“He’s unsure of where his plane crashed, said he just lost it in the weather,” someone can be heard saying of the pilot on audio from a Charleston County Emergency Medical Services call shared Tuesday by a local meteorologist.
A trip that began as a routine training flight did not last very long. The pilot “experienced a malfunction and was forced to eject” Sunday at an altitude of about 1,000 feet just a mile north of Charleston International Airport, according to a situation report given to AP by the Marine Corps official.
The jet belongs to the most expensive weapon system program in the U.S. Department of Defense, according to a May 2023 report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office. The Department of Defense is weighing its options to modernize the engine, according to the report, and the “overtasked” cooling system requires that the engine operate “beyond its design parameters.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.