Wreckage belonging to the Japanese F-35 Lightning II stealth fighter jet that disappeared on Tuesday over the Pacific Ocean close to northern Japan was found, a military spokesman said on Wednesday.
The pilot of the aircraft is still missing, added the Japan Air Self Defence Force (JASDF) spokesman.
The single-engine jet operated by the JASDF was on a training flight with three other F-35s about 135 kilometers (84 miles) off the east coast of Aomori prefecture when the contact was lost, according to defense ministry officials. It lost contact about 30 minutes after taking off from the Misawa Air Base on the northern tip of the main Japanese island of Honshu, where it was based.
The crashed aircraft, which the JASDF identified as serial number 79-8705, was the first of 13 Japanese F-35As assembled so far by Mitsubishi’s final assembly and check out facility in Nagoya, Defense News reported.
The disappearance prompted Japan’s military to ground its remaining fleet of the U.S.-made warplanes.
Japan’s first squadron of F-35s went operational just 11 days ago, with about a dozen of the jets forming the 302nd Squadron at the Misawa Air Base.
The Japanese jet would be the second 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.