National

Remains of Japan ASDF pilot found, two months after F-35A fighter crash off Aomori

by Reiji Yoshida

Staff Writer

Remains of the pilot of an Air Self-Defense Force F-35A stealth jet fighter that went missing off Aomori Prefecture on April 9 have been retrieved from the ocean, Defense Minister Takeshi Iwaya said Friday.

The remains were found Wednesday and identified as those of Maj. Akinori Hosomi, an ASDF public relations officer in Tokyo said.

Both Iwaya and the ASDF declined to reveal further details, citing privacy and the wishes of the bereaved family.

On Monday, the Defense Ministry terminated search and rescue activities. The ministry has retrieved part of the jet’s flight recorder but its data was lost.

The ministry is now analyzing the cause of the crash by using radar data and communication records from three other F-35A fighters that were conducting a joint exercise about 135 km off Misawa Air Base in Aomori Prefecture.

The ministry plans to use a waterproof camera to search the ocean area where the remains were found, although it believes it is unlikely that anything offering clues regarding the cause of the accident will be found, Iwaya said.

“It’s truly regrettable we lost the excellent pilot who had a bright future ahead. … I extend my heartfelt condolences to the family,” Iwaya told reporters.

The advanced fighter that crashed was one of the first 13 F-35As deployed in Japan. The crash was the first involving an F-35A anywhere in the world, drawing the attention of military experts around the world.

Since the accident, the ASDF has suspended operations of the remaining 12 F-35A jets at the Misawa base, but the ASDF reportedly plans to resume flights soon.

Japan plans to procure a total of 147 F-35 jets, 105 of which are expected to be F-35As. The state-of-the-art fighters cost more than ¥10 billion each.

The jet involved in the accident was one of nine F-35As that were assembled and checked by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. prior to their delivery. The remaining four were assembled and checked in the U.S.

The F-35 stealth fighter, produced by U.S.-based manufacturer Lockheed Martin Corp., was jointly developed by nine countries including the U.S., the U.K., Italy, the Netherlands, Turkey and Canada.