On Friday, Japanese Defence Minister Takeshi Iwaya announced that the country’s authorities had launched an underwater search and recovery operation to retrieve the wreckage of a Japanese F-35 fighter jet that mysteriously disappeared from the radars during drills over the Pacific Ocean on 9 April.
Washington and Tokyo are yet to recover the missing Japan Air Self-Defence Force (JASDF) F-35A fighter jet as they have been conducting “a tireless, around-the-clock search” for the fifth-generation stealth plane since 9 April, Business Insider (BI) reports.
This comes as Japanese Defence Minister Takeshi Iwaya told the Japan Times on Tuesday that “the F-35A is an airplane that contains a significant amount of secrets that need to be protected.”
“With the help of the United States, we will continue to take the leading role in investigating the cause of the accident,” Iwaya added.
Earlier, he announced that Tokyo would ground the JASDF’s whole fleet of F-35A stealth fighters in the wake of the incident.
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The Japan Times also quoted an unnamed Japanese Defence Ministry spokesman as saying that the remains of the F-35 jet’s tail had been found but they were yet to track down the rest of the fuselage, as well as the pilot.
“On average two aircraft, including a helicopter, and two patrol vessels are constantly deployed in the around-the-clock search operations,” the official said.
The statement came after an unnamed Pentagon spokesman told BI that the US “stands ready to support the partner nation in recovery” of the missing warplane.
He also emphasized “how serious the US is about ensuring that [the F-35A’s] advanced technology doesn’t fall into the wrong hands”, BI reported.
The JASDF’s F-35A Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter, while being flown by 41-year-old Major Akinori Hosomi, reportedly disappeared from radars on 9 April, 135 kilometers (84 miles) east of the Misawa Air Base located in the country’s northern Aomori prefecture.
The incident took place during a training flight involving four F-35A fighters; it is the first case of an F-35A crashing, as the warplane, introduced in 2016, has only recently come into service in various countries.
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