US Marine Corps F-35 crashes in South Carolina, pilot safely ejects

Crash appears to be the first of its kind for the troubled F-35 program

A U.S. Marine Corps F-35B stealth fighter was completely destroyed in a crash during training on Friday September 28, officials said. The pilot safely ejected.

The crash appears to be the first of its kind for the troubled F-35 program, marking an unfortunate moment for the most expensive plane in history.

Speaking on condition of anonymity ahead of an official announcement, a defense official told AFP that the Marine Corps F-35 had crashed outside Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort in South Carolina.

“It’s a total loss,” the official said.

The Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office said the pilot safely ejected and was being evaluated for injuries.

The U.S. Marine Corps F-35B variant is capable of taking off from a short runway and landing vertically. The Air Force and Navy have their own models.

The crash comes just one day after the U.S. military first used the F-35, which has been beset with delays and cost overruns, in combat. Multiple U.S. Marine Corps F-35s struck Taliban targets in Kandahar province, Afghanistan.

With a development program beginning in the early 1990s, the F-35 Lightning II is considered the most expensive weapons system in U.S. history, with an estimated cost of some $400 billion and a goal to produce 2,500 aircraft in the coming years.

But, once servicing and maintenance costs for the F-35 are factored in over the aircraft’s lifespan through 2070, overall program costs are expected to rise to $1.5 trillion.

Proponents tout the F-35’s stealth technology, supersonic speeds, close air support capabilities, airborne agility and a massive array of sensors giving pilots unparalleled access to information.

But the program has faced numerous delays, cost overruns and setbacks, including a mysterious engine fire in 2014 that led commanders to temporarily ground the planes.

With reporting from AFP

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