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We asked the Marines if China caused the missing F-35 crash

The Department of Defense can’t account for spare parts worth millions of dollars that use its costliest weapon, the F-35 jet, auditors say. (Master Sgt. Darnell T. Cannady/U.S. Air Force/TNS)
September 19, 2023

Rumors swirled online this week over the U.S. military’s missing F-35 jet that disappeared after its pilot safely ejected over the weekend. Some speculated China was behind the “mishap” even after U.S. officials located parts of the aircraft at a crash site in South Carolina.

American Military News asked the Marine Corps on Tuesday if China or any unknown foreign actor was involved in the unusual incident.

“The mishap is currently under investigation. The Department of the Navy has a well-defined process for investigating aircraft mishaps. We are unable to provide additional details to preserve the integrity of the investigatory process,” a 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing spokesperson told American Military News in an email.

According to the Daily Mail, a watchdog organization called POGO issued a report in 2019 warning that every software-enabled weapon system on the F-35 tested between 2012 and 2017 could be hacked.

“Despite years of patches and upgrades, the F-35’s most combat-crucial computer systems continue to malfunction, including the Autonomic Logistics Information System (ALIS) maintenance and parts ordering network; and the data links that display, combine, and exchange target and threat information among fighters and intelligence sources,” the agency wrote.

“As in previous years, cybersecurity testing shows that many previously confirmed F-35 vulnerabilities have not been fixed, meaning that enemy hackers could potentially shut down the ALIS network, steal secret data from the network and onboard computers, and perhaps prevent the F-35 from flying or from accomplishing its missions,” it added.

United States military officials announced on Monday that a debris field connected to the F-35 was discovered in South Carolina.

“Personnel from Joint Base Charleston and @MCASBeaufortSC, in close coordination with local authorities, have located a debris field in Williamsburg County. The debris was discovered two hours northeast of JB Charleston,” Joint Base Charleston wrote in a post on X, formerly Twitter.

“We would like to thank all of our mission partners, as well as local, county, and state authorities, for their dedication and support throughout the search and as we transition to the recovery phase,” the base added in a follow-up post.

The jet’s discovery came after military officials asked the public to help locate the missing F-35.

“We’re working with @MCASBeaufortSC to locate an F-35 that was involved in a mishap this afternoon. The pilot ejected safely. If you have any information that may help our recovery teams locate the F-35, please call the Base Defense Operations Center at 843-963-3600,” the base posted.

“Based on the jet’s last-known position and in coordination with the FAA, we are focusing our attention north of JB Charleston, around Lake Moultrie and Lake Marion,” it added.