Japanese F-35 crashed into Pacific, rest of fleet grounded

A Japanese F-35A fighter jet is missing; remaining 12 are grounded

11 April, 2019

A Japanese F-35A stealth fighter belonging to the country's Air Self-Defense Force (ASDF) disappeared from radar screens flying over the Pacific Ocean, off Aomori Prefecture during a routing flight training, on Tuesday.

The pilot is a man in his 40s, Mr Iwaya said.

Eight search and rescue aircraft were sent to the area where the plane was last reported.

The F-35A disappeared during a training exercise after taking off from Misawa Air Base in northeastern Japan.

The incident has raised concerns both about the safety of the F35, which Japan plans to adopt as the mainstay of its air force, and the possible intelligence windfall that any foreign government could score, in the event that they could beat Japanese or United States search crews to the missing plane's wreckage.

"We'll need to cooperate with the USA forces and I believe arrangements are being made for this", Iwaya said, adding the priority was on determining the cause of the accident. The pilot remains missing.

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The cost for the additional purchase of F-35s is expected to total about 1.2 trillion yen ($10.7 billion).

Misawa is the home of the 302 Hikotai (Squadron), the unit previously operating the F-4EJ "Kai", that has officially moved to Misawa air base to operate the JASDF F-35A 5th generation aircraft after retiring its last Phatom on March 26, 2019.

Iwaya said 12 other F-35s from the Misawa base will be grounded.

"We recovered the wreckage and determined it was from the F-35", a spokesman for the Air Self Defence Force (ASDF) said, adding that the pilot of the aircraft was still missing. The F-35 fighter jet is able to evade enemy's radar and penetrate deep into enemy's space without detection.

In December, Japan announced its plans to place an order for 105 more F-35s from the USA on top of the 42 it had already bought - a deal which would make Japan the largest global buyer of the troubled plane. Each costs around $100 million, slightly more than the cost of buying a fully assembled plane. The Pentagon said it was monitoring the situation.

This is only the second F-35 crash since the aircraft completed flight testing-a Marine Corps F-35B crashed in SC in September of 2018. Lockheed Martin also makes a C version of the fighter created to operate off carriers.

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