Asahi ran a prominent inside-page story on joint efforts by the SDF and the U.S. military to locate the wreckage of a Japanese F-35A that crashed off the coast of Aomori Prefecture a month ago. The two militaries have reportedly mobilized various platforms, including a MEXT research ship and a Guam-based B-52, to pinpoint and retrieve the plane out of concern that its onboard state-of-the-art technology will be stolen by the Chinese or the Russians. According to an unnamed SDF official, secret information about the fighter could be divulged even by analyzing part of the aircraft’s fuselage. A GOJ source said the fact that the U.S. military has made such strenuous efforts to locate a missing ASDF fighter shows that it is a “treasure trove” of advanced aviation technology. Defense Minister Iwaya reportedly disclosed on Tuesday that although parts of the cockpit and flight recorder of the stealth fighter have been retrieved, they do not contain the memory chips that recorded the flight data ahead of the crash.
The paper noted that depending on the cause of the fatal accident, Japan may be forced to conduct a review of its plan to procure a total of 147 F-35s, speculating that it may have been pilot error as a result of spatial disorientation, an aircraft defect, or an error in the assembly process. Pointing out that the ASDF’s F-35s have been grounded since the accident, the daily projected that it may be a while before their operations are resumed because the investigation is likely to become prolonged.