The U.S. Navy has ended its support to find a missing Japanese F-35A Lighting II Joint Strike Fighter that crashed last month, U.S. 7th Fleet announced late Wednesday.
“A U.S. Navy salvage team aboard a contracted vessel completed its mission supporting search and recovery operations with the Japan Self-Defense Forces after locating debris from the downed JASDF F-35A off the coast of Japan, May 8,” reads the statement provided to USNI News.
“Working closely with JSDF forces, the salvage team deployed a U.S. Navy remotely operated vehicle, CURV 21, to survey the area where debris was located.”
Late last month, the U.S. had dispatched the salvage team aboard the commercial diving support construction vessel DSCV Van Gogh, unmanned underwater vehicles and a TPL-25 “black box detector” – a towed sensor that can locate emergency beacons up to 25,000 feet below the ocean’s surface.
The team had recovered part of the fighter’s data recorder sometime last week, Japanese Defense Minister Takeshi Iwaya told reporters Wednesday, according to The Dipolmat.
“The Defense Ministry is studying [the parts], but at this point, the all-important memory [of the flight data recorder] has not been recovered,” he said.
Prior to the salvage effort, the U.S. deployed ships and aircraft to find the aircraft shortly after it went missing on April 9 85 miles east of Misawa Air Base.
“USS Stethem (DDG-63) and P-8A Poseidon aircraft joined JSDF forces searching an area spanning approximately 5,000 square nautical miles,” U.S. 7th Fleet said. “U.S. Navy P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft flew a total of 182 hours.”
U.S. officials have told USNI News the Navy does not believe Russia or China is actively searching for the missing aircraft.
The following is the May 9, 2019 release from the U.S. 7th Fleet.
US Navy Concludes Support to JSDF-led Search and Recovery Efforts for F-35A May 9, 2019
NORTH PACIFIC – A U.S. Navy salvage team aboard a contracted vessel completed its mission supporting search and recovery operations with the Japan Self-Defense Forces after locating debris from the downed JASDF F-35A off the coast of Japan, May 8.
Working closely with JSDF forces, the salvage team deployed a U.S. Navy remotely operated vehicle, CURV 21, to survey the area where debris was located.
Prior to the salvage team mission, guided-missile destroyer USS Stethem (DDG 63) and multiple P-8A Poseidon aircraft joined JSDF-led search efforts from Apr. 9-17, covering more than 5,000 square nautical miles.
The aircraft first went missing 85 miles east of Misawa Air Base, Apr. 9.
The U.S. Navy’s thoughts continue to be with the pilot’s family, friends and colleagues.
The close coordination and cooperation between the U.S. military and JSDF during this operation serves as a reflection of a strong Alliance, forged over decades of mutual support and friendship.