The US has poured cold water on the possibility of global competitors locating Japan’s missing F-35A Lightning II aircraft before its own search parties.
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Since the F-35 crashed off the north of Japan, in the Pacific Ocean, the race has been on to find the aircraft, in order to protect/reveal the technology inside the fifth-generation fighter.
However, the US has voiced confidence that they and Japan will be the first to find it.
“The Japanese have the lead there, and we’re working very collaboratively with them," acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan said.
"And we’ve got a capability if what they have doesn’t prove to be sufficient.”
In response to whether he was concerned China would get to the crash first, Secretary Shanahan replied, "No, I'm not".
Locating the aircraft and the pilot may prove to be very difficult, with the suspected crash zone estimated to be 5,000 feet deep, with Japan currently deploying a rescue submarine, among other vessels, to try and find the F-35.
“This is a very important aircraft, so we would like to locate the aircraft as soon as we can and salvage it,” Japanese Defense Minister Takeshi Iwaya.
“Japan will lead the investigation, but we’re hoping and also it is indispensable to have the support of the US. So while we do that, we would like to find the root cause of the accident.”
So far, the tail of the plane has been recovered, but that is the lone piece of evidence.
The pilot was flying with three other F-35s when he lost contact and disappeared off radar about 140 kilometres east of Misawa Air Base.