Military experts think it will be hard to reverse engineer the F-35A from pieces of wreckage recovered from the seabed, but the debris might still offer vital information. In June of 2014, an Air Force F-35A caught fire before take-off because of an engine failure.
Local media reported that contact with the Lockheed Martin-made stealth fighter was lost just before 7:30 p.m. local time, with the aircraft's last reported location identified over the Pacific Ocean about miles 85 miles east of Misawa city in Aomori prefecture, in the northern part of Japan's main island of Honshu. The pilot remains missing.
Asked what more the United States was prepared to do to help locate the pilot and aircraft, Col. John Hutcheson of US Forces Japan told me in an email that "US Forces Japan will continue to work closely with the Japan Self Defense Forces and Ministry of Defense to assist with search and rescue efforts, as requested".
A part of what's believed to the the plane's tail was spotted floating near where it disappeared, Defense Minister Takeshi Iwaya told reporters Wednesday.
The fifth-generation F-35 fighter jet has been lauded as a game-changer in the world of military aviation, not only for its offensive and stealth capabilities, but for its ability to connect its systems with other aircraft and form an information-sharing network.
He added that the cause of the incident would have to be determined.
But Japan has grounded its 12 remaining F-35s.
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F-35 is considered the most expensive US weapons system.
The Royal Australian Air Force, which has 72 planes on order, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Under guidelines approved in December, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's government plans to buy 147 F-35s, including 105 F-35As, costing about 10 billion yen (£69 million) each.
The aircraft crashed in waters whose depth reach about 1,500 metres, making recovery, particularly of its flight data recorder, or black box, difficult, the official said.
The ASDF received the aircraft, created to penetrate enemy defences by evading radar detection, last May, its spokesperson said.
The aircraft, less than one-year-old, was the first F-35 to be assembled in Japan and was only in the air for 28 minutes on Tuesday, a defence official said.
Britain, which has 17 F-35B model jets that can take off and land vertically, has not grounded its fleet, but is monitoring the situation closely.