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Japan, US struggle to find crashed jet and its 'secrets'

AFP  |  Tokyo 

One week after an stealth fighter jet crashed off the northeastern coast of Japan, US and Japanese military vessels are struggling to find the wreckage and protect its valuable "secrets."

The Japanese jet vanished from the radar on April 9 over the Pacific as it was conducting a training mission with three other some 135 kilometres east of Misawa,

A told AFP that the remains of the jet's tail had been found but they were still hunting in vain for the rest of the fuselage, as well as the pilot.

"On average two aircraft, including a helicopter, and two patrol vessels are constantly deployed in the around-the-clock search operations," said the official, who asked to remain anonymous.

has also dispatched an unmanned submersible vessel.

Separately, the has dispatched one military and one vessel to join the mission, said the official, adding that the search has not yet been scaled back.

said the crash would be discussed at a meeting with his US counterpart in on Friday, which will also involve the two allies' foreign ministers.

"The is an airplane that contains a significant amount of secrets that need to be protected," Iwaya told reporters.

"With the help of the United States, we will continue to take the leading role in investigating the cause of the accident," he said.

Akira Kato, a of international and regional security at Tokyo's J.F. Oberlin University, said rivals and would have "a strong interest in collecting even a single screw of the state-of-the-art plane."


And Hideshi Takesada, a defence expert and at in Tokyo, said it would not be a surprise if and were engaged in undercover activities to find some of the debris.

"Even if and the US find it, they may not disclose details, including its exact location, due to concerns that and might try to collect it," Takesada told AFP.

Japan's defence ministry confirmed it had not spotted any suspicious vessels or from a third country near the site.

announced a commission last week to study the cause of the accident but it remains unclear exactly what happened to the plane.

US touts the hi-tech fighter as "virtually undetectable" and says it allows the US and its allies to dominate the skies with its "unmatched capability and unprecedented situational awareness."

is deploying F-35As, each of which costs more than 10 billion yen ($90 million), to replace its ageing fighters.

The jet was one of 13 deployed at the Misawa Air Base, according to the defence ministry.

The remaining 12 fighters have been grounded for the time being, the ministry said.

The F35-A jets are a key part of Shinzo Abe's efforts to upgrade the nation's military capacity to meet changing power dynamics in East Asia, with rapidly modernising its military.

Over the next decade, Japan plans to purchase as many as 105 F35-As and 42 units of other high-capacity jets, most likely the F35-B variant.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Tue, April 16 2019. 12:15 IST
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