Japan: Missing F-35 stealth fighter crashed into Pacific Ocean

JAPAN-POLITICS-DEFENCE

According to Defense Minister Takeshi Iwaya, the reason for the jets crush is still unknown.

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. According to the ministry's report, parts of the jets were recovered but its pilot is still missing.

The fighter was flying with three other aircraft off the coast of Aomori Prefecture, some 135 kilometers east of the base, when radar contact was lost around 7:25 p.m., according to the Air Self-Defense Force.

The ASDF only formed the Misawa-based air squadron comprising the 13 F-35As on March 26.

Japan has announced plans to buy 105 of the F-35A models and 42 F-35Bs, the latter of which it could eventually use to turn its Izumo-class helicopter destroyers into small aircraft carriers, its first since World War II.

Japan has grounded its new fleet of F-35 fighter jets after one of the stealth aircraft mysteriously crashed into the Pacific Ocean during a training exercise.

United States defense contractor Lockheed Martin touts the high-tech fighter as "virtually undetectable" and says it allows the U.S. and its allies to dominate the skies with its "unmatched capability and unprecedented situational awareness".

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The jet belonged to the country's Air Self-Defense Force (ASDF).

Eight ships and seven aircraft, including a US Navy P-8 Orion maritime patrol plane, joined the search and rescue effort.

The cause of the crash, which occurred at 7:27pm local time on Tuesday (6:30am EDT), remains unknown.

It was only the second F-35 to crash since the aircraft's first flight in 2006 and could reignite concerns about the F-35's safety. "We continue to hope for the safe recovery of the pilot, and our thoughts are with his family and all of our Japanese partners as they conduct this search".

A Royal Air Force F-35A Lightning from 617 Sqn taking-off.

A September crash of an F-35B - the Marine Corps model of the plane - in SC prompted the Pentagon to suspend most flights for about two weeks to inspect a fuel line investigators believed may have contributed to the incident.

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