Sad news from Japan this morning where a Japan Air Self Defence Force (JASDF) F-35A Lightning II has been reported missing, presumed lost off the east coast of Japan’s main island of Honshu.
The aircraft was operating as part of a four-ship flight which took off from Misawa Air Base in the northern Aomori prefecture at 19:00 local time on April 9, and it was reporting missing at 19:27 local time (20:27 AEST) about 140km east of Misawa city.
DefenseNews reports local media reports of JASDF officials saying an air-sea search and rescue effort by aircraft and ships had been launched, and that some debris had been found in the area. The JSDF later confirmed the missing aircraft – identified as 79-8705 (AX-05), the first F-35 to be assembled at the FACO in Nagoya by Mitsubishi in 2017 – has crashed, and that a piece of its tail has been found in the water.
This would be the first loss of any F-35 and pilot since the type’s first flight in 2006, a remarkable achievement for a still relatively immature program.
Two F-35s, a USAF F-35A and a USMC F-35B have experienced engine fires and have been written off, but both aircraft were able to safely recover without serious injury to their pilots.
The incident comes less than two weeks after Japan established its first F-35 operating unit, the 302nd Squadron, an element of its 3rd Air Wing at Misawa.
We will update this story as more details emerge.