Apparent wreckage from missing F-35 jet found: Japan gov't source

Lockheed Martin

The F-35 is notoriously considered the most expensive U.S. military program of all time, and a 2018 report by the Project on Government Oversight claimed that senior officials involved in developing the aircraft concealed risky flaws in its design instead of fixing them in order to avoid paying cost overruns on what was already an enormously expensive project.

A P-8A joined JASDF aircraft and Japan Maritime Self Defense Force ships searching the area overnight.

The fate of the pilot was also unclear, a ministry spokesman said. A similar fighter belonging to the Japan Air Self-Defense Force crashed into the Pacific Ocean on April 9, 2019.

The aircraft was flying with three other F-35As in a night training mission.

The aircraft crashed in waters that reach a depth of around 1,500 metres, making recovery hard, the official said.

The F-35 launched from Misawa Air Base, in Aomori Prefecture, in the norther part of the country. The plane had logged a total of 280 hours in the air since its first flight, he added.

The Lockheed Martin Corp.

The F-35 was developed by the USA and eight other countries. Lockheed also makes a C version of the fighter created to operate off carriers.

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Lockheed said it was standing by to support the Japanese Air Self Defense Force as needed.

"In December 2018, the Japan Ministry of Defense announced its decision to increase its procurement of F-35s from 42 to 147".

A U.S. Defense Department spokesman said the Pentagon was aware of the reports but declined to comment. No word yet of any Russian or Chinese efforts to locate the downed aircraft or to assist with the search.

The aircraft, less than one-year-old, was the first F-35 to be assembled in Japan and was aloft for only 28 minutes on Tuesday before contact was lost, a defence official said.

The purchase affects the balance of payments between the U.S. and Japan, as the United States pushes its main allies, including South Korea and Germany, to shoulder more defense costs, including the basing of USA troops on their soil.

The so-called "fifth generation" fighter plane costs around $100 million, and Japan plans to buy about 150 more of them from the USA, more than any other customer. Each costs around $100 million, slightly more than the cost of buying a fully assembled plane.

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. An F-35A squadron with 80 personnel was formed last month at the Misawa base.