On Wednesday, the United States Navy reported that its P-8th maritime patrol plane, and a guided missile destroyer, are helping search and rescue efforts led by the Japanese by the pilot of an F-35A of the Japan's Air Self-Defense Force, missing since April 9.
The aircraft, less than one-year-old, was the first F-35 to be assembled in Japan and was aloft for only 28 minutes on Tuesday before contact was lost, he said.
It is the second crash incident where an F-35 was involved since its first flight two decades ago.
The missing plane took off from Misawa Air Base in northeastern Japan at around 7:00 p.m. on Tuesday evening, the SDF said.
"If one of Japan's F-35s is sitting at the bottom of the Pacific, we are probably about to see one of the biggest underwater espionage and counter-espionage ops since the Cold War", Rogoway tweeted.
The crash has also sparked concerns over the Japanese government's plans to buy 105 more of the 100-million-dollar fighters as it seeks to overhaul its aged fleet of mainstay jets as part of its controversial national defense guidelines. The pilot safety ejected before the crash.
The remaining 12 F-35A fighters have been grounded for the time being, according to the defence ministry.
The jet went missing about half an hour after taking off from the Misawa air base with three other F-35As for anti-fighter battle training.
The fact that the Japanese pilot called for a mission abort but apparently did not issue a mayday call indicates a possible instrumentation problem, possibly with the plane's wiring, Layton said. "All 276 U.S. F-35's continue to fly", Lieutenant Colonel Mike Andrews, a Pentagon spokesman, said. The Air Self-Defense Force said that parts of the jet were found late Tuesday. In March, the Air Self-Defense Force reached its first operational squadron, the U.S. Defense Department said.
Japan's newly purchased F35s included 18 STOVL B variants that they want to deploy on its territory along the edge of the East China Sea.