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.

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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."

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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.

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The Pentagon has ordered its entire fleet of F-35 fighters to be grounded in the wake of a Marine F-35B crash in South Carolina last month.

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DoD photo

Two Air Force squadrons are about to get the armed forces’ first fully combat operational F-35A multirole fighter outfitted with the latest iteration of a long-awaited software suite after a year of testing and training missions, Aviation Week reports, finally allowing pilots to utilize the joint strike fighter complete arsenal of capabilities and weaponry.

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