National

Flight data recorder from Japan's crashed F-35A retrieved, but key data still missing

by Reiji Yoshida

Staff Writer

The Defense Ministry has retrieved part of the flight data recorder from a F-35A stealth fighter that went missing last month, but it was heavily damaged and also did not include a storage device to record speed and altitude data, Defense Minister Takeshi Iwaya told reporters Tuesday.

The discovery on the sea floor, the exact location of which has been withheld for security reasons, is therefore unlikely to help determine the cause of the crash.

What looked like some parts of the stealth fighter — which cost more than ¥10 billion — were also spotted on the sea floor, about 1,500 meters below the surface. The Defense Ministry plans to salvage them, said a public relations officer with the Air Self-Defense Force in Tokyo.

The F-35A stealth fighter went missing on April 9 about 135 kilometers east of Misawa Air Base in Aomori Prefecture, during a combat exercise together with other three F-35As.

The pilot, Maj. Akinori Hosomi, has yet to be found.

The crash of the F-35A, which was made by U.S. firm Lockheed Martin and assembled by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries. Ltd., is believed to have been the first in the world for that particular model, drawing much attention from military analysts around the world as a result.

The stealth jet is packed with top-class military technologies that are highly confidential, and as such the Defense Ministry is continuing its search for the wreck.

Japan currently plans to procure a total of 147 F-35 fighter jets, 105 of which are expected to be F-35A models. The rest will be F-35Bs, which are set to be deployed on two Izumo-class warships that the Defense Ministry plans to convert into multipurpose aircraft carriers.

The jet fighter that crashed in April was the first of nine F-35As to have been assembled and checked prior to delivery by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. The remaining four were assembled and checked in the U.S.