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Pilot missing after 1,200mph stealth jet crashes over Pacific

Sky News logo Sky News 10/04/2019

a fighter jet flying through a blue sky: The F-35 can hit Mach 1.6 or over 1,200mph. File pic © Other The F-35 can hit Mach 1.6 or over 1,200mph. File pic A fighter pilot is missing after one of Japan's stealth jets went down in the Pacific Ocean - only the second crash in the plane's history.

Wreckage has been found after the F-35A disappeared from radar on Tuesday night, 84 miles (135km) from the Misawa air base in the north of the country.

The jet was in the air for 28 minutes when contact was lost. It was at the front of a group of four planes on a training flight when it sent an "aborting practice" signal, said defence minister Takeshi Iwaya.

The pilot had 3,200 hours of flight time but just 60 on the F-35, said an official from the Air Self Defence Force (ASDF).

a plane flying in the air: The UK currently has 15 F35-B stealth jets but plans to have 138 © Getty The UK currently has 15 F35-B stealth jets but plans to have 138

Recovery efforts are expected to be difficult because the jet crashed in waters around 1,500m deep. Japan said it would work with the US on determining the cause of the crash and the Pentagon is also monitoring the situation.

The high-tech design of the F-35 makes the 1,200mph jet "virtually undetectable" by enemy radar, according to its American maker Lockheed Martin.

Britain's RAF and Royal Navy currently have around 15 F-35B jets in total but the Ministry of Defence has pledged to buy 138.

The crashed plane was the fifth F-35 delivered to Japan but the first assembled inside the country, said an ASDF official. Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, which put the plane together at a plant near Nagoya, has so far not commented.

a large body of water with smoke coming out of it: An F-35B crashed in Beaufort, South Carolina, in September © Reuters An F-35B crashed in Beaufort, South Carolina, in September

Japan's first F-35 squadron has only just become operational and the country plans to buy 87 of the jets to modernise its air defences as the military might of China grows. The crash is only second involving an F-35 since it launched nearly 20 years ago.

A short take-off and landing version of the jet went down near a US Marine Corps base in South Carolina in September, prompting a temporary grounding of the aircraft. The pilot in that incident survived after triggering his ejector seat.

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