Wreckage from a Japanese F-35A stealth fighter jet has been found a day after it disappeared off the radar over the Pacific.
Japan began deploying F-35As, costing over 10 billion yen ($90 million) each, in January past year to replace the aging F-4 fighter jet, and an F-35A squadron with 80 personnel was formed just last month at the Misawa base.
Later Tuesday, Japanese Defence Minister Takeshi Iwaya said that the air force would suspend flights of its remaining F-35As for the time being following the plane's disappearance, according to a report by Kyodo.
The pilot of the single-seat fighter is missing, and a search is underway, according to Japan's Defense Ministry. "We'll do our best to rescue the missing pilot", he said.
If the flight had crashed it would become only the second time an F-35 has gone down since it becoming operational 20 years ago. The pilot ejected safely.
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It is the first crash of an A version of the fifth-generation fighter created to penetrate enemy defences by evading radar detection.
The stealth fighter, which has been beset by cost overruns and delays, has a price tag of around $100 million each. Last September, an F-35B (vertical landing variant) crashed near Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort in SC.
The F-35A in question was engaging in anti-fighter combat training with three other F-35A jets.
Japan selected the F-35A as the JASDF's next-generation fighter aircraft in December 2011 with an initial order for 42 F-35As.
The Pentagon said it was monitoring the situation.
Japan's new F-35s will include 18 short take off and vertical landing (STOVL) B variants that planners want to deploy on its islands along the edge of the East China Sea.