‘They don’t know if the jet is in the air or underwater’: Rep. Mace expresses frustration after briefing on missing F-35

CHARELSTON, S.C. (WCBD)- U.S. Rep. Nancy Mace (R-S.C.) said she is “frustrated” with the lack of information being provided after a fighter jet went missing Sunday after what Joint Base Charleston is calling a “mishap.”

Mace, who represents the First Congressional District, was briefed Monday afternoon on the ongoing search for a F-35B Lightning II jet from Marine Fighter Attack Training Squadron (VMFAT) 501 with the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing.

“They don’t know if the jet is on autopilot and still flying around the airspace or if the jet is underwater because it crashed in a body of water,” Mace said.

The search began Sunday after a pilot was found on South Kenwood Drive in North Charleston after safely ejecting from the passing plane. Jeremy Huggins, a spokesman at Joint Base Charleston, told NBC News the jet was left in autopilot mode when the pilot ejected from the aircraft so there was a possibility that it could have remained airborne for some time.

But, Mace said she has struggled to get clear answers about what caused the “mishap” and that officials have provided little information in the wake of the incident.

“The Marine Corps sent individuals over to my office who could not provide any answers whatsoever,” she said. “Frustrated would be an understatement right now because our community deserves basic, minimum answers.”

She added that the missing jet could present a public safety issue for Lowcountry residents and is imploring defense officials to share more information.

“Everyone is pointing fingers right now,” she said. “Mistakes happen and it’s a matter of taking responsibility, ensuring trust in the process, trust in operations, trust that the community’s going to be kept as safe as possible even when there’s a jet missing.”

The search for the missing jet expanded to the Pee Dee region of the state Monday afternoon with efforts concentrated over parts of Florence and Marion counties.

The congresswoman said her office has reached out to the Marine Corps station in Beaufort, Joint Base Charleston, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), and Pentagon officials to request a second briefing.

“These people do not think they are beholden to anyone and they refuse to answer questions or they send people who simply don’t know and can’t answer your questions,” Mace said. “I don’t know which one is worse.”

The $80 million F-35 is made by Lockheed Martin and can reach speeds of 1,200 mph, according to the company’s website. The company describes it as the “most advanced fighter jet in the world,” as well as the “most lethal, stealthy and survivable aircraft.”