Japanese F-35 fighter jet missing off northern Japan coast

JAPAN-POLITICS-DEFENCE

The aircraft lost had a total of 280 flight hours prior to the crash.

Pieces from the wreckage a Japanese fighter jet that crashed into the Pacific Ocean Tuesday have been found, Japan's Self-Defense Force confirmed a day after the incident.

Japan started deploying the expensive F-35s past year as part of its plan to bolster defense spending and weapons capability to counter potential threats from North Korea and China.

In December, Japan announced its plans to place an order for 105 more F-35s from the United States on top of the 42 it had already bought - a deal which would make Japan the largest worldwide buyer of the troubled plane.

"We recovered the wreckage and determined it was from the F-35", a spokesperson said.

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.

The fighter was one of the first 13 F-35A aircraft deployed in Japan.

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.

Japan has grounded its new fleet of F-35 fighter jets after one of the stealth aircraft mysteriously crashed into the Pacific Ocean during a training exercise.

Other incidents that have hit the F-35 program include a runway fire in Florida in 2014 which led to inspections of the plane's engines; and five incidents in 2017 where pilots reported oxygen deprivation problems.

Japan Maritime Self Defense Force search and rescue vessels have been dispatched to the area where the aircraft disappeared.

The first crash, of an F-35B, occurred in SC in September 2018, which led to a temporary grounding of all F-35 aircraft to inspect "suspect fuel tubes" that may have been a factor in that incident. The most recently purchased fighters will cost Japan 15.3 billion yen ($137 million) each, according to its most current budget.

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. More than 320 of the fighters operate from 15 American bases worldwide, though the Pentagon and Lockheed continue to wrestle with resolving more than 900 deficiencies - including flaws in the plane's complex software.

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