Search and rescue teams found wreckage belonging to a Japanese Lockheed Martin F-35 stealth fighter that disappeared on Tuesday over the Pacific Ocean close to northern Japan, a military spokesman said on Wednesday.
“We recovered the wreckage and determined it was from the F-35,” a spokesman for the Air Self Defense Force (ASDF) said, adding that the pilot of the aircraft was still missing.
Parts of the plane have been recovered during search operations at sea.
It is not known why the plane, which is less than a year old, lost contact and crashed.
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The fighter jet went missing at 19:27 pm (10:27 GMT) on Tuesday as it was flying 135km (84 miles) east of Misawa, a city in north-eastern Japan.
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It lost contact about 30 minutes after taking off from the Misawa Air Base.
No problems with the aircraft had previously been reported, according to Japan’s public broadcaster NHK.
Rescue teams are continuing their search for the male pilot who is in his 40s, according to news site Kyodo.
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The country has now grounded its 12 remaining F-35 fighter jets at the Misawa base temporarily, said Defence Minister Takeshi Iwaya.
The crash marks only the second time an F-35 has gone down since the plane began flying almost two decades ago. It was also the first crash of an A version of the fifth-generation fighter, which is designed to penetrate enemy defenses by evading radar detection.
Lockheed Martin, which manufactures the aircraft, said it was standing by to support the Japanese Air Self Defense Force as needed. The Pentagon said it was monitoring the situation.