(JASDF's 3rd Air Wing, 302nd Tactical Fighter Squadron)
The F-35 that went missing in April crashed after the pilot lost his spatial awareness and slammed the fighter into the Pacific Ocean at almost 700 mph, the Japanese defense ministry said Monday, according to multiple reports.
A Japan Air Self-Defense Force (JASDF) F-35A Joint Strike Fighter piloted by Maj. Akinori Hosomi of the 3rd Air Wing's 302nd Tactical Fighter Squadron mysteriously vanished from radar on April 9 about 85 miles east of Misawa Air Base.
The U.S and Japan dispatched military assets to assist in search and rescue operations. The U.S. ended its search in May, but the Japanese military kept going until last week.
Two F-35A Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters recently flew a mission in the Middle East in "beast mode," meaning they were loaded up with as much firepower as they could carry.
The F-35s with the 4th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron took off from Al Dhafra Air Base, United Arab Emirates to execute a mission in support of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, Air Forces Central Command revealed. The fifth-generation fighters sacrificed their high-end stealth to fly with a full loadout of weaponry on their wings.
Top U.S. and Japanese defense officials are downplaying the possibility that the Chinese military could recover the wreckage of a Japanese F-35A that crashed on April 9 in the Pacific Ocean.
The Joint Strike Fighter disappeared from radar about 85 miles east of Honshu, Japan's main island. Although ships and aircraft have spotted some debris in the area where the plane is believed to have crashed, both the wreckage and pilot remain missing.
The Air Force's variant of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter has arrived at Al Dhafra Air Base, United Arab Emirates in the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility to fly combat operations if needed, a defense official said on Monday.
"They were already scheduled to come out here for an exercise," the defense official told Task & Purpose. "But they are operational, so when or if they get called to get on an ATO [air tasking order], they will be on one."
The last few weeks have been a roller coaster for the F-35, from its first combat airstrike, to its first crash, to the Pentagon ordering the entire F-35 fleet grounded as it inspects a possibly-dangerous aircraft part.