General Eric Smith, the acting commandant of the US Marines, has issued an order to ground all Marine Corps aircraft, both within and outside the United States, as per a report in NBC News. This decision came in the wake of the mysterious disappearance of a stealth F-35 jet in South Carolina. While Marine aircraft currently deployed abroad or those with imminent missions have the option to briefly delay the order, issued on Monday, they are still expected to stand down for a two-day period later this week, the outlet further said, citing officials.
The Pentagon, in a statement, clarified that this operational pause is aimed at providing units with the opportunity to engage in discussions regarding aviation safety matters and to share best practices. Additionally, the Marine leadership intends to utilise this stand down to ensure that the service is “maintaining the operational standardization of combat-ready aircraft with well-prepared pilots and crews”, NBC News further said.
“During the safety stand down, aviation commanders will lead discussions with their Marines focusing on the fundamentals of safe flight operations, ground safety, maintenance and flight procedures, and maintaining combat readiness,” the statement said.
Meanwhile, US authorities searching for F-35B Lightning II jet – with a price tag of about $80 million – found the debris on Monday.
The debris field was found in Williamsburg County, South Carolina.
When the F-35 jet disappeared over South Carolina on Sunday, Joint Base Charleston (JBC) issued a call on social media asking for anyone who had information about it to call in.
Flight tracking sites showed several search aircraft focused on a wooded and farmland area near Stuckey, which is in Williamsburg County, about 120 kilometres north of Charleston, late on Monday afternoon.