The US Military Lost A $130m F-35 Lightning, And Wants You To Find It

The Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II, the second aircraft to bear the “Lightning” moniker after the World War II-era Lockheed P-38 Lightning, is a fifth-generation fighter aircraft that’s described by its maker as “the most lethal fighter jet in the world.” Not only that, Lockheed Martin says “The F-35 strengthens national security, enhances global partnerships, and powers economic growth.” While an F-22 Raptor, also made by Lockheed Martin, is mostly a fighter jet and “air dominance” fighter, the F-35 was designed with several roles in mind and has been exported to many allied countries. 

The F-35B variant, the same type as the aforementioned missing plane, is designed with STOVL (Short Takeoff and Vertical Landing) capabilities for the United States Marine Corps. That means it is specially suited to take off from very short runways and also land vertically, or hover in place as needed. It accomplishes this by swiveling its jet nozzle downward. That downward thrust measures out to around 40,000 pounds of thrust. The Marine Corps uses this capability to land on ships at sea without the need for a conventional aircraft carrier.

Lockheed Martin also reports that the plane can reach 1.6 times the speed of sound and can carry enough fuel to travel more than 1,000 miles on a full tank. It has not been reported whether or not the pilot who ejected in South Carolina had engaged the hover abilities of their plane. It is also unknown how much fuel was onboard. 

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