National

U.S.-chartered ship and Japanese research vessel to join deep-sea search for SDF's lost F-35A

Kyodo

Defense Minister Takeshi Iwaya said Tuesday a U.S.-chartered ship will within this month join a deep-sea search for an F-35A fighter jet that recently crashed in the Pacific.

Iwaya told a news conference that the Van Gogh will join the search effort by the Maritime Self-Defense Force and U.S. forces off Aomori Prefecture, saying, “We’ll try to find the wreckage as soon as possible.”

The jet, developed by U.S. defense firm Lockheed Martin Corp. and assembled by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd., went down on April 9 during an Air Self-Defense Force night exercise after taking off from Misawa Air Base in Aomori.

Both countries are concerned about the implications of the cutting-edge aircraft being recovered by other countries as it could constitute a major military intelligence breach.

The ASDF pilot of the single-seat stealth jet also remains missing.

Science minister Masahiko Shibayama told a separate news conference on Tuesday that the research vessel Kaimei, owned by the Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology, will also take part in the search following a request from the Defense Ministry.

According to the agency, the ship is equipped with a remotely operated vehicle that can observe up to a depth of about 3,000 meters.

Iwaya told reporters in Washington on Friday that acting U.S. Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan agreed to dispatch a ship to search for the F-35A’s wreckage following a request from Japan.