US Destroyer & P-8 Join Search for Lost Japanese F-35

Defense Minister Takeshi Iwaya told reporters that a search and rescue operation was underway for the missing jet and its pilot.

The Self-Defense 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. The remaining F-35s will be grounded until the cause of Tuesday's crash is determined.

The UK now owns 17 F-35B Lightning stealth fighter jets, and Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson has pledged that a total of 138 will be bought.

The pilot of the aircraft remains missing.

The F-35 family of jets are the first to combine radar-evading stealth technology with supersonic speeds and the ability to conduct short take-offs and vertical landings.

Officials said there was no known problem with the aircraft before contact was lost, but the 12 other F-35As have been grounded at the Misawa Air Base in the wake of the crash.

The other pilots participating in the flight exercise did not see the crash occur because it was nighttime and the aircraft was flying distant from the others.

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The aircraft crashed in waters whose depth reach about 1,500 metres, making recovery, particularly of its flight data recorder, or black box, difficult, the official said. Military experts think it will be hard to reverse engineer the F-35A from pieces of wreckage recovered from the seabed, but the debris might still offer vital information.

Its first squadron of F-35s has just become operational.

Last Sep, a US F-35 plane crashed near the Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort in SC prompting a temporary grounding of the aircraft.

United Kingdom officials are in close touch with the U.S. F-35 Joint Programme Office, but there was now very little information available about the incident, the spokesperson said.

Japan is deploying F-35As, each of which costs more than 10 billion yen ($90m), to replace the ageing F-4 fighter jet. A Marine Corps F-35B fighter jet crashed near the Marine Corps Air Station in Beaufort, S.C., in September. Each costs around $100 million, slightly more than the cost of buying a fully assembled plane.

The F-35C model is the US Navy's version, designed for use off its aircraft carriers.All contain an advanced electronic warfare suite which can allow seamless integration among users within one military or among allies.

  • Sonia Alvarado