TOKYO, April 10 2019 : Search and rescue teams found wreckage belonging to a Japanese Lockheed Martin F-35 stealth fighter that disappeared yesterday over the Pacific Ocean close to northern Japan, a military spokesman said on today.
“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 advanced, single-seat jet was flying about 135 km (84 miles) east of the Misawa air base in Aomori Prefecture at about 7:27 p.m. (1027 GMT) yesterday, when it disappeared from radar, the Air Self Defence Force said.
The aircraft was less than a year old and was delivered to the ASDF in May last year, the spokesman said. Japan’s first squadron of F-35s has just become operational at Misawa and the government plans to buy 87 of the stealth fighters to modernise its air defences as China’s military power grows.
Lockheed Martin, which manufactures the aircraft, said it was standing by to support the Japanese Air Self Defence Force as needed. The Pentagon said it was monitoring the situation.
A U.S. military short take off and landing (STOVL) F-35B crashed near the Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort in South Carolina in September prompting a temporary grounding of the aircraft. Lockheed Martin also makes a C version of the fighter designed to operate off carriers.
Japan’s new F-35s will include 18 short take off and vertical landing (STOVL) B variants that planners want to deploy on its islands along the edge of the East China Sea.
A representative for Mitsubishi Heavy Industries said the company had no immediate comment. – Reuters