Tokyo, Apr 10: Defence Minister Takeshi Iwaya confirmed on Wednesday that F-35A stealth jet, one of the world's most-advanced warplanes, which disappeared during a training mission, has crashed into the Pacific Ocean and the pilot remains missing.
A section of the missing fighter’s tail was found and retrieved from the sea late Tuesday night about 135 km off the coast of the Air Self-Defence Force’s Misawa Air Base in Aomori, The Japan Times reported. The cause of the crash remains unknown.
The fighter went missing on Tuesday over the Pacific Ocean off Aomori Prefecture during nighttime flight training, the ASDF said. The ASDF’s radar lost track of the jet at 7:27 p m, when it was about 135 km east of Misawa Air Base in the prefecture. The F-35A in question was engaging in anti-fighter combat training with three other F-35A jets.
The Self-Defence Forces had dispatched airplanes, helicopters and warships to search for the jet and pilot late Tuesday, and the search was continuing as of Wednesday morning.Asked about the cause of the incident at an earlier news conference Tuesday evening, Iwaya declined to comment, saying the Defence Ministry “will put all our efforts to save the life (of the pilot) first.”
The Defence Ministry has suspended flights of all remaining F-35As at the Misawa Air Base for the time being. The ASDF only formed the Misawa-based air squadron comprising the 13 F-35As on March 26. Japan plans to procure a total of 147 F-35 fighter jets, 105 of which are expected to be F-35A. UNI