How can you lose a fighter jet that costs at least $80 million? Since the United States military launched a call for citizens to help find an F-35, missing after an “incident”, many Americans have asked themselves the question, between amused astonishment 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,” the army added, without specifying why he had to resort to this extreme option, normally synonymous with imminent danger.
But since then, this expensive aircraft, the flagship of American naval aviation, has not appeared anywhere.
An unusual call that immediately provoked a multitude of reactions.
“We knew the F-35 was stealthy, but this is ridiculous,” South Carolina Republican Rep. Nancy Mace said 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? 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 that allowed it to be located – but that it did not work “for some unknown reason.” still decided.
“That’s why we’ve launched a public appeal for help,” continued spokesman Jeremy Huggins.
So far, authorities have simply said that, based on the last known position of the highly sophisticated F-35B Lightning II, the search focused on an area north of Charleston, near lakes Moultrie and Marion.
“We are still gathering information,” another base spokesman told AFP on Monday. “The investigation is ongoing”.
In X, funny, even mocking, comments multiplied about this device belonging to the prestigious United States Marine Corps.
Internet users shared fake wanted posters photoshopped on trees: “F-35 missing. Reward of $500.”
And as the United States has provided billions of dollars in military aid to kyiv, many shared a photograph – also manipulated – of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky all smiles, posing in front of a fighter jet. “Did they look at Ukraine? », He tried to ask an Internet user.
President Zelensky insistently asks the West for fighter jets to fight 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,” conservative commentator Benny Johnson screeched in a post on X.
A popular theory on social media is that the plane went into “zombie” mode, meaning it was flying (or still flies) on autopilot.