F-35 pilot ejected over South Carolina due to bad weather

The pilot who ejected from a $100 million F-35 fighter jet claimed to have lost the plane in the weather — and likely bailed out before he could activate its tracking system, sources and experts said.

“He’s unsure of where his plane crashed, said he just lost it in the weather,” a voice can be heard saying of the pilot on a Charleston County Emergency Medical Services call posted Tuesday by a meteorologist.

The unidentified pilot landed in a North Charleston residential neighborhood and was taken to a local hospital for treatment.

He has since been discharged.

Military officials have not yet released a specific reason for the pilot’s hasty exit, only referring to the incident as stemming from a “malfunction.”

F-35B fighter jet
The pilot said he lost the plane in bad weather before ejecting to safety.
AFP via Getty Images

Longtime military aviation expert and consultant Richard Aboulafia told The Post the pilot was likely operating the stealth fighter without any tracking capabilities activated — and ejected before he could do so.

“If you turned on the onboard device it would be easily trackable,” he said. “But this is a stealth aircraft. If you don’t turn that particular device on it’s going to be hard to make contact. Most likely, he or she did not have a lot of time to react.”

Military officials were compelled to ask for the public’s help in locating the plane — via a post on Facebook.

The plane crashed into a rural field in South Carolina Sunday.
AFP via Getty Images

“It’s unusual,” Aboulafia said of that effort. “But what is the harm? The onboard device has not been turned on, it’s not being tracked. So it makes perfect sense that they’re going to ask for help from people in the area who might have seen a jet heading in their direction.”

The plane ultimately crashed into a wooded area in South Carolina about 60 miles from where the pilot parachuted to the ground.

South Carolina plane crash
Officials have sealed off an area near the area where the plane landed

State law enforcement officers said they officially identified the plane on Monday and have since closed off a one mile stretch of road in Williamsburg County.

Local residents in the rural area said they heard an ear piercing screech before a massive boom that shook their homes.

The jet is part of the U.S. Department of Defense’s priciest weapons system program in the U.S. Department of Defense, according to a May 2023 report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office.

The agency is considering modernize the aircraft’s engine.

Fighter jet plane crash personnel
Officials have not yet provided a specific “malfunction” that led to the pilot’s ejection.

Aboulafia said although the high-tech model may have its issues, it is still considered the top fighter jet around the world and is coveted by a long list of governments.

“I understand the frustration with delays and cost overruns and whatever else,” he said. “But the fact is they can’t produce these fast enough for demand. And that’s the bottom line.”

With Post Wires