Crashed Japanese F-35 wreckage found in Pacific

Crashed Japanese F-35 wreckage found in Pacific

TOKYO- Reuters
Crashed Japanese F-35 wreckage found in Pacific

Search and rescue teams found wreckage from a crashed Japanese F-35 stealth fighter in the Pacific Ocean close to northern Japan, as efforts to find the missing pilot continued, authorities said on April 10.

The aircraft, less than one-year-old, was the first F-35 to be assembled in Japan and was aloft for only 28 minutes on April 9 before contact was lost, a defense official said. The plane had logged a total of 280 hours in the air since its first flight, he added.

It is only the second F-35 to crash in the two-decades it has been flying and could reignite concern about the F-35 having only one engine.

The incident comes as Lockheed Martin, the F-35 manufacturer, competes for orders in Finland and Switzerland against the twin-engined Eurofighter Typhoon and Boeing F/A-18E/F jet.

The aircraft was at the front of a group of four planes out for training maneuvers when it sent an "aborting practice" signal and then disappeared from the radar, Defense Minister Takeshi Iwaya told reporters.

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

Japan has a total of 13 F-35s including the one that crashed, which was the fifth delivered to the ASDF, but the first assembled by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries in Japan, a second ASDF official told Reuters. Japan's remaining 12 stealth jets are grounded for now, he added.

The aircraft, designed to penetrate enemy defenses by evading radar detection, was delivered to the ASDF in May last year, the ASDF 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 modernize its air defenses as neighboring China and Russia upgrade their military forces.

But if Russia or China- which both maintain a heavy naval presence in the region- find the plane first, the future of US airpower could be over before it started, according to the U.S. media.