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Japan, China, Russia ‘racing to find crash jet’

Japan, China, Russia ‘racing to find crash jet’

Chinese newspapers say the crash of a Japanese F-35A is a blow to Lockheed Martin as well as US arms sales, as allies and foreign militaries may reconsider the reliability of the plane, billed as the world’s most advanced stealth fighter.

The fact that an F-35A operated by the Japan Air Self-Defense Force crashed not in a genuine dogfight but during a regular training drill over the Pacific could deal a crippling blow when Washington makes a pitch for the fighter to its allies across Asia, Beijing’s mouthpiece the People’s Daily and its sister publication the Global Times claimed.

Japan’s Defense Ministry announced on Wednesday that an F-35A stationed at the Misawa Air Base disappeared from radar the previous evening, when it was about 135 kilometers east of the northern Aomori prefecture. The jet was later confirmed to have crashed after debris from its tail fins was spotted, but the fate of the Japanese pilot remains unknown.

The F-35A, the best-selling baseline version of the series, was flying with three other jets, in two groups to perform an offense-defense exercise. The pilot was a veteran with 3,200 flight hours, and he told the other pilots before the crash that he needed to cancel the mission, about 25 minutes after taking off. The jet was equipped with an emergency ejection system, but the military said it received no sign it had been activated, indicating that the pilot may not have had adequate time to follow evacuation procedures, according to Japan’s state broadcaster NHK. The single-seat jet had a system that would have emitted distress signals if the pilot ejected from the cockpit with a parachute.

The crash will make countries think twice before shelling out on the expensive fighter that costs no less than $90 million each. A Chinese military observer said countries like Singapore, which just opted to procure four F-35s over other options like China’s ace fighter, the J-20, would have to think if they should proceed with buying a fighter that has faults. The Global Times also suggested the crash could affect the Japan-US alliance.

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