April 17, 2019 – Japan’s fleet of F-35A stealth fighters were involved in seven emergency landings before last week’s crash, the Ministry of Defense revealed yesterday.
The cutting-edge fighter had its first accident on April 9 when it crashed into the Pacific Ocean off of northern Japan. The aircraft was stationed at the Air Self-Defense Force’s Misawa Base in Misawa, Aomori Prefecture.
Of the 13 planes provided by the United States to Japan, five have been forced to make emergency landings in seven incidents. Of these, two emergency landings were due to faults recorded in the recently crashed jet. The ministry claims it confirmed the aircraft were safe to fly after each case, but a possible connection is still being investigated.
The Ministry of Defense said the emergency landings took place between June 2017 and January 2019 during flight tests and drills. Unplanned returns to base were made after the planes reported issues with systems relating to fuel, hydraulics and other parts. Excluding one case of an error by the aircraft’s monitoring systems, the remaining six saw the fighters inspected and parts replaced before they were confirmed safe to fly.
Final assembly of four of the error reporting planes, including the fighter that went missing April 9, was carried out in Japan by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Ltd. The other aircraft was built and assembled in the U.S. Earlier reports showed the crashed fighter had issues with its cooling and navigation systems twice, on June 20, 2017, and Aug. 8, 2018, respectively.
Minister of Defense Takeshi Iwaya addressed the need to investigate the cause of the crash at an April 16 press conference. “The technology on board the F-35 is highly classified. With cooperation from the U.S., we would like to take the initiative in thoroughly investigating the causes while gaining cooperation from the United States,” he said. Iwaya added that he would be discussing the issue at a Japan-U.S. Security Consultative Committee “two-plus-two” meeting set to take place in Washington on April 19.