U.S. Destroyer, P-8 Poseidons Join Search for Missing Japanese F-35A Pilot; Officials Say Fighter Crashed

April 10, 2019 8:08 AM
F-35A sits on Misawa AB flightline. US Air Force Photo

A U.S. guided-missile destroyer and P-8A Poseidons maritime surveillance aircraft have joined in the search for a Japanese Air Self Defense Force F-35A Lighting II Joint Strike Fighter pilot who went missing on Tuesday.

The P-8As, assigned Patrol Squadron (VP) 8 and Patrol Squadron (VP) 5, joined the search Monday night and destroyer USS Stethem (DDG-63) is underway to the search areas, U.S. 7th Fleet announced.

Japanese officials told reporters that searchers had discovered parts from the missing fighter.

“We have collected parts from the jet fighter’s tail fin so we [believe] it crashed,” Defence Minister Takeshi Iwaya told reporters, according to the BBC.

The fighter, assigned to the JASDF 302nd Tactical Fighter Squadron, went missing about 84 miles off the coast of Misawa, Japan about 7:30 p.m. local time. Press reports say the unidentified pilot was an experienced aviator with over 3,000 hours of flight time.

Japan’s remaining 12 operational F-35As have been grounded pending an investigation into the apparent crash.

USS Stethem (DDG-63) on March 22, 2017. US Navy

The following is the U.S. 7th Fleet statement on the search.

MISAWA, Japan – U.S. Navy P-8A maritime patrol aircraft and a guided-missile destroyer are assisting Japanese-led search and rescue efforts for the pilot of a Japan Air Self Defense Force F-35A missing since Apr. 9.

The F-35A lost radar contact approximately 85 miles east of Misawa Air Base.

A P-8A joined JASDF aircraft and Japan Maritime Self Defense Force ships searching the area overnight.

Additional flights are continuing today.

Guided-missile destroyer USS Stethem (DDG 63) is sailing to the search area now.

U.S. 7th Fleet provides security alongside allies and partners throughout a free and open Indo-Pacific. As the U.S. Navy’s largest forward-deployed fleet, 7th Fleet operates roughly 50-70 ships and submarines and 140 aircraft with approximately 20,000 Sailors.

The P-8A aircraft are assigned to Patrol Squadron (VP) 8 and Patrol Squadron (VP) 5. Both squadrons are homeported in Jacksonville, Fla. and are on rotational deployments to 7th Fleet out of Misawa, Japan.

Stethem is forward-deployed to Yokosuka, Japan.

Sam LaGrone

Sam LaGrone

Sam LaGrone is the editor of USNI News. He has covered legislation, acquisition and operations for the Sea Services since 2009 and spent time underway with the U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corps and the Canadian Navy.
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