Japanese air force stealth fighter jet crashes in Pacific

A Japanese F-35A has gone missing. The variant is the same as this Royal Australian Air Force stealth fighter

In September, a US Marine Corps F-35 crashed in Beaufort, South Carolina.

Defense Minister Takeshi Iwaya said on Wednesday that an investigative committee at the Air Staff Office will look into the cause of the accident to prevent a recurrence.

The F-35 was developed by the US and eight other countries.

The other pilots could not see the major's plane as it was dark, defense ministry officials said, and the planes were not flying close to each other during the combat drill.

The missing F-35 had been "engaging in anti-fighter battle training with three other F-35A jets", according to the Japan Times. 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.

Mr Iwaya said: "During the exercise, the aircraft. communicated that it was aborting the exercise, then communications from the plane stopped and its radar track disappeared".

The U.S. Navy's guided-missile destroyer USS Stethem and a P-8A maritime patrol aircraft are assisting in search and rescue efforts for the missing plane, which authorities say disappeared around 85 miles east of the base.

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The Royal Australian Air Force, which has 72 planes on order, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

One of the most sophisticated weaponry available, "the F-35 is the result of the most expensive weapons program in America's military history", Fox described.

The Japanese air force began using the aircraft in March; it has 13 in its fleet. 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.

The cost for the additional purchase of F-35s is expected to total about 1.2 trillion yen ($10.7 billion).

Japan's new F-35s will include 18 short take off and vertical landing (STOVL) B variants that planners want to deploy on its islands along the edge of the East China Sea.

The craft that vanished was reportedly the first F-35A to be built at the Mitsubishi Heavy Industries facility in Nagoya.

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