All national dailies reported on the ongoing search and rescue operations for a missing ASDF F-35A off the coast of Aomori, noting that Defense Ministry has launched an investigation into the cause of the first-ever crash of the state-of-the-art stealth fighter. The dailies said the accident came as a shock to MOD and SDF officials, since Japan plans to introduce a total of 147 F-35s and they are expected to play a key role in defending the nation from China and Russia. They projected that if the probe into the cause of the accident is prolonged, it could have adverse effects on the planned procurement and operation of the fighters.
According to Yomiuri, the investigation is likely to focus on a possible connection between the aircraft’s final assembly in Japan and the crash. If it is determined that there was a problem related to the final assembly, it will complicate the procurement plan as the three F-35s that Japan plans to introduce this fiscal year will be assembled domestically. Because some mechanical and other details of the aircraft are withheld by the U.S. side due to their sensitive nature, Asahi speculated that the ministry will need to coordinate with the U.S. military and Lockheed-Martin in proceeding with the investigation.
Sankei claimed that as the U.S. military is committed to safeguarding the F-35’s secret onboard technology, it has sent patrol planes and two warships to support Japan’s search and rescue operations. The paper added that China and Russia may also try to retrieve the plane in a bid to unravel its highly secret specifications.