First F-35 outside USA crashed into the sea

The jet went missing about half an hour after taking off from the Misawa air base with three other F-35As for anti-fighter battle training.

The fifth-generation F-35 fighter jet has been lauded as a game-changer in the world of military aviation, not only for its offensive and stealth capabilities, but for its ability to connect its systems with other aircraft and form an information-sharing network.

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

"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.

"And then we will do our best to probe the cause", he said, adding that Japan's 12 remaining F-35A fighters will be grounded for the time being. Each costs around $100 million, slightly more than the cost of buying a fully assembled plane.

It had only been in the air for 28 minutes before the crash on Tuesday, Japanese officials said.

The F-35's pilot was a veteran flyer with 3,200 hours of flight time, but had spent only 60 hours in the F-35, the official said. The aircraft crashed in waters that reach a depth of around 1,500 meters, making recovery hard, the spokesman added. In March, the Air Self-Defense Force reached its first operational squadron, the U.S. Defense Department said. In November previous year, Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson announced that the United Kingdom was doubling its fleet of F-35 fighters by ordering 17 more jets.

The aircraft, created to penetrate enemy defences by evading radar detection, was delivered to the ASDF in May a year ago, the ASDF spokesman said.

Lockheed Martin, which manufactures the aircraft, said it was standing by to support the Japanese Air Self Defence Force as needed.

A U.S. Defense Department spokesman said the Pentagon was aware of the reports but declined to comment.

The Japanese Air Self Defense Force (JASDF) says it has found what could be debris from the F-35A plane that lost radar contact with ground control at Misawa Air Base during a routine training mission off the coast of Aomori Prefecture on Tuesday, broadcaster NHK reports.

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.

  • Jon Douglas