A U.S. Marine Corps F-35B Lightning II fighter jet out of Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort in South Carolina crashed just five miles away from the base on Friday, military officials confirmed, the first crash in the aircraft’s 17-year history.
- Marine Corps spokesman Capt. Chris Harrison confirmed to Task & Purpose that the pilot, assigned to Marine Fighter Attack Training Squadron 501, ejected safely.
- The incident is a somber coda to an otherwise banner week for the F-35. The crash occurred less than 24 hours after the Pentagon deployed an F-35B from Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 211 on its first combat operation, striking a fixed Taliban target in Afghanistan.
- Earlier on Friday, Defense News reported that a new contract between the Pentagon and F-35 manufacturer Lockheed Martin had brought the cost of the standard F-35A variant below $90 million for the first time, a major coup for the most expensive aircraft in U.S. military history.
- While the incident marks the first crash of the F-35, it’s the not the first total loss of the airframe: In 2016, an in-flight fire that erupted in the weapons bay bracket of a Marine F-35B resulted in an emergency landing at MCAS Beaufort. The pilot escaped uninjured.