April 10, 2019 (by Asif Shamim) - The JASDF have announced that one of their new F-35A fighters has gone missing during a training flight off the coast of Northern Japan on April 9th. The status of the pilot is unknown.
JASDF F-35A #79-8705 (AX-05), the first Japanese-assembled F-35A, was unveiled in Nagoya on June 5th, 2017. The aircraft was built at Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) F-35 Final Assembly and Check Out (FACO) facility. The Japan F-35 FACO is operated by MHI with technical assistance from Lockheed Martin and oversight from the US government. [Photo by Thinh Nguyen]
Three F-35As from 302 Squadron, based Misawa Air Force base departed at 19:00hrs local time. About 30 minutes into the flight one aircraft was lost from the radar some 135km from the base near the island of Honshu.
The Japanese Defence Minister, Takeshi Iwaya state the remaining 12 F-35's have now been grounded.
Aircraft from the JASDF, Japan Maritime Self Defence Force (JMSDF), Japanese Coast Guard & USAF participated in the search and have found debris which includes the plane’s tail fin.
Rescue teams are continuing their search for the male pilot who is in his 40s, according to news site Kyodo.
According to Mr Iwaya, the missing pilot had sent a signal to abort the mission. All communication with him was lost shortly after.
The F-35 in question is the first Japanese assembled airframe F-35A #79-8705
(AX-05) built at the Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) Komaki South F-35 Final Assembly and Check Out (FACO) facility on June 5, 2017.
This is first F-35A to crash. September 2018 was the last incident in which a F-35B from the USMC crashed near Marine Air Station Beaufort in South Carolina. In that incident the fleet was also grounded for a short period.