US-chartered ship to join deep-sea F-35A search

Kyodo News

Posted at Apr 23 2019 04:00 PM

TOKYO - Japanese Defense Minister Takeshi Iwaya said Tuesday a U.S.-chartered ship will join a deep-sea search within this month for an F-35A fighter jet which recently crashed in the Pacific. 

Iwaya told a press conference that the Van Gogh will join the search effort by Japan's Maritime Self-Defense Force and U.S. forces off the northeastern Japanese prefecture of Aomori, saying, "We'll try to find the wreckage (of the crashed F-35A) as soon as possible."

The jet, developed by U.S. defense firm Lockheed Martin Corp. and assembled by Japan's Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd., went down on April 9 during a Japanese Air Self-Defense Force night exercise after taking off from Misawa Air Base in Aomori.

Both countries are concerned about the implications of the cutting-edge aircraft being recovered by other countries as it could constitute a major military intelligence security breach.

The ASDF pilot of the single-seat stealth jet also remains missing.

Iwaya told reporters in Washington Friday that acting U.S. Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan agreed to dispatch a ship to search for the F-35A's wreckage following a request from Japan.

Japanese science minister Masahiko Shibayama told a separate press conference on Tuesday that the research vessel Kaimei, owned by the Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology, will take part in the search following a request from the Defense Ministry.

According to the agency, the ship is equipped with a remotely operated vehicle which can observe under the sea at a depth of about 3,000 meters.