US Aircraft, Ships End Search for Japanese F-35, Investigation Ongoing

From left, Japanese Defense Minister Takeshi Iwaya, Foreign Minister Taro Kono, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan speak during a 2+2 ministerial meeting Friday at the US State Department in Washington, D.C. Twitter photo via Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

The United States will no longer provide aircraft and maritime support in the search for the Japan Air Self-Defense Force F-35A that crashed into the Pacific Ocean on April 9, but it will continue to provide assistance in other ways, such as helping to determine the cause of the crash.

“We are in full support” of Japan’s lead on the investigation and “have full confidence that … we’ll recover it and the situation is being properly managed,” Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan said during a 2+2 meeting with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Japan’s defense and foreign ministers.

The JASDF F-35A was part of a four-ship training flight when it crashed shortly after takeoff from Misawa Air Base. Following the crash, the JASDF grounded its F-35 fleet, but other nations, including the US, kept flying the jet.

US aircraft, including a P-8 and U-2, joined US and Japanese ships in searching the area and although possible debris was found, the jet has not yet been recovered.

Japanese Minister of Defense Takeshi Iwaya said during the press conference that Japan’s maritime search will continue. The F-35A is a “very important aircraft, so we would like to locate the aircraft as soon as possible and salvage it,” he said. It has been “indispensable” to have the US support in the crash and the investigation.

“I am proud that the two nations are of the relationship in which we can help each other in difficult times,” he said.

Iwaya told reporters later Friday at the Pentagon that Japan is conducting “surveillance and warning activities” to find the aircraft and there is no possibility another actor, such as China, would get to the jet first.

Speaking during a press conference earlier in the week in Tokyo, Iwaya said JASDF F-35s had made seven emergency landings since it began flying the jets. These involved seven aircraft assembled in Japan and one that was assembled in the US, according t0 UPI.