Remains of Maj. Akinori Hosomi, the pilot of the Japan Air Self-Defense Force (JASDF) F-35A Lightning II stealth jet fighter that went missing on April 9, have been retrieved from the ocean, Japan Times reported citing Defense Minister Takeshi Iwaya.
The condition of the pilot’s remains and further details of the discovery were not revealed citing privacy and the wishes of the bereaved family.
The F-35A aircraft disappeared from radar while flying over the Pacific on April 9 while conducting training flight with three other F-35s off Aomori Prefecture.
Hosomi, a 41-year-old pilot with 3,200 hours of flight experience, was last heard from when he signaled to his squadron mates that he would have to abort the mission before his craft disappeared from radar. The aircraft, based at Misawa Air Base on the northern tip of the main Japanese island of Honshu, was about 135 kilometers (84 miles) off the east coast of Aomori prefecture when contact was lost.
The Defense Minister also announced the suspension of the search and rescue activities for the pilot and the jet. The U.S. Navy had concluded its support for the search mission a month ago.
The F-35 jets are one of the most advanced fighter aircraft currently in operation and it’s design, equipment and radar-absorbent coatings are classified. Due to this, Japan and the US are keen to prevent debris from the jet being recovered by military rivals, Russia or China.
Pieces of the plane’s tail fins were recovered from the sea shortly thereafter and a damaged part of the flight recorder was retrieved by U.S. Navy-chartered deep sea diving support vessel Van Gogh but major parts of the F-35 airframe is yet to be recovered.
The crashed aircraft, which the JASDF identified with serial number 79-8705, was the first of 13 Japanese F-35As assembled at Mitsubishi’s Final Assembly and Check Out (FACO) facility in Nagoya.
The Japanese jet is the second F-35 lost to an accident. A U.S. Marine Corps F-35B crashed in Beaufort, South Carolina, in late September last year. U.S. defense officials said a faulty fuel tube was the likely cause, and all F-35s operated by the United States and its allies were temporarily grounded for inspection.