The Pentagon is facing urgent questions over how it lost an $80million aircraft that was finally found crashed in a field just 80 miles from its base following a frantic 28-hour search.The Marine pilot of the F-35B Lightning II took off on Sunday from Joint Base Charleston, South Carolina – but an unexplained issue forced him to eject.The plane was flying in tandem with another jet, which returned to base after the mishap rather than following the pilot-less aircraft.
The second F-35 pilot, who had also been on the training mission, landed without any problems, base spokesman Tech. Sgt. James Cason said.The stealth jet’s transponder, which usually helps locate the aircraft, was not working ‘for some reason that we haven’t yet determined,’ said Jeremy Huggins, another spokesman at Joint Base Charleston.It forced the base to issue a humiliating appeal for assistance in finding the jet – even launching a hotline for tips, which was mercilessly mocked online. ‘So that’s why we put out the public request for help,’ said Huggins.