One of the first 13 F-35A stealth jet fighters deployed in Japan went missing Tuesday over the Pacific Ocean off Aomori Prefecture during nighttime flight training, the Air Self-Defense Force said.
The ASDF's radar lost track of the jet at 7:27 p.m. when it was about 135 km east of Misawa Air Base in the prefecture.
As of late Tuesday, the ASDF could not confirm whether or not the male pilot had ejected from the cockpit.
The F-35A in question was engaging in anti-fighter battle training with three other F-35A jets.
Airplanes, helicopters and warships of the Self-Defense Forces were searching for the jet and pilot as of 10:00 p.m. Tuesday.
The search and rescue activities will continue overnight, Defense Minister Takeshi Iwaya told reporters at the ministry in Tokyo.
Asked about the cause of the incident, Iwaya declined to comment, saying the Defense Ministry "will put all our efforts to save the life (of the pilot) first."
The Defense Ministry will suspend flights of all remaining F-35As at the Misawa Air Base for the time being, Iwaya added.
The ASDF only formed the Misawa-based air squadron comprising the 13 F-35As on March 26.
Japan plans to procure a total of 147 F-35 fighter jets, 105 of which are expected to be F-35A.
This article is written by Reiji Yoshida from The Japan Times and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.