Search underway after Japanese F-35 fighter disappears during night training mission

A Japanese F-35A fighter jet is missing; remaining 12 are grounded

The aircraft, less than one-year-old, was the first F-35 to be assembled in Japan and was only in the air for 28 minutes on Tuesday, a defence official said.

13 F-35A are now based at Misawa AB, based on Japanese media reports.

The U.S. military temporarily grounded its entire fleet of F-35s past year after one of the jets crashed during a training mission in SC.

Defense Minister Takeshi Iwaya grounded the Air Self-Defense Force's entire fleet of F-35As as a precaution after the aircraft went missing at about 7:30pm local time, half an hour after taking off. "We'll do our best to rescue the missing pilot", he said.

No problems with the aircraft had previously been reported, according to Japan's public broadcaster NHK. The plane's pilot is also missing.

That's about all that's know thus far, but if the plane is found to have crashed, it would be the second such incident for an F-35.

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The JASDF stood up its first F-35A fighter squadron, the 302nd Squadron, part of the service's 3rd Air Wing, at Misawa Air Base last month. The anticipated purchase makes Japan the largest global buyer of F-35 aircraft. It was also the first crash of an A version of the fifth-generation fighter, which is created to penetrate enemy defenses by evading radar detection.

The F-35B, like the one the US Marine Corps lost, is designed for short takeoff and vertical landings.

U.S. defense officials in October said a faulty fuel tube was the likely cause, and all F-35s operated by the United States and its allies were temporarily grounded for inspection.

Under guidelines approved in December, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's government plans to buy 147 F-35s, including 105 F-35As, costing about 10 billion yen (NZ$133 million) each.

The Pentagon said it was monitoring the situation.

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