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US Navy ends search for Japanese F-35A in the Pacific

US Navy file photo of a cable-controlled undersea recovery vehicle (CURV-21)

The US Navy is concluding its support for the search and recovery operations of the Japanese F-35A fighter jet that went missing over the Pacific, off Misawa Air Base on April 9.

A US Navy salvage team aboard the contracted vessel DSCV Van Gogh completed its mission after locating debris from the downed JASDF F-35A.
Working with JSDF forces, the salvage team deployed a US Navy remotely operated vehicle, CURV 21, to survey the area where debris was located.
Prior to the salvage team mission, guided-missile destroyer USS Stethem (DDG 63) and multiple P-8A Poseidon aircraft joined JSDF-led search efforts from Apr. 9-17, covering more than 5,000 square nautical miles.

The plane crashed during a regular training mission. Parts of the jet’s tail fin were recovered shortly after the accident. Japan’s defense minister confirmed to reporters that parts of the plane’s data recorder had been found but the recorder’s memory is yet to be retrieved.

 

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Probe finds F-35's first crash was caused by manufacturing defect, in revelation that could affect Japan plans to buy aircraft
Bloomberg, Staff Report
May 12, 2019

WASHINGTON - The crash of a U.S. Marine Corps F-35B that temporarily grounded the entire fleet of next-generation jets in 2018 was caused by a manufacturing defect in a fuel tube made by a United Technologies subcontractor, according to congressional investigators.

The defect “caused an engine fuel tube to rupture during flight, resulting in a loss of power to the engine,” the Government Accounting Office said last week in a report on major weapons systems that referred to the September crash in South Carolina. The Pentagon told the watchdog that it identified 117 aircraft — about 40 percent of the worldwide F-35 fleet at the time — with the same type of fuel tubes that had to be replaced.

The disclosure was the first official information about the crash since the Pentagon program office in late October issued a status statement while the Marine Corps was still conducting its investigation. United Technologies Corp.’s Pratt & Whitney unit “is fully responsible” for “the propulsion system and has the lead in working” the failure analyses, according to the statement at the time.

A spokeswoman for the Pentagon F-35 program office deferred comment to Pratt & Whitney, whose spokesman, John Thomas, said the company had no comment.

Marine Corps spokesman Capt. Chris Harrison said in a statement that the crash probe is continuing, and that the results will be released once complete. The marines have replaced all of the relevant fuel supply tubes and “we continue to strive each and every day to ensure the safety and readiness of our aircraft,” he added.

The F-35 is the Pentagon’s most expensive weapons program, at a projected cost of more than $428 billion.

The Sept. 28 crash of the F-35B near Beaufort, South Carolina, was the first in the two-decade old program’s often-rocky history of delays, cost increases and technical glitches. Although the pilot safely ejected, the incident prompted concerns about the aircraft, which is being built by and sold to an international consortium of U.S. allies, including the U.K, Italy, Australia and Turkey. Japan currently plans to procure a total of 147 F-35 fighter jets, 105 of which are expected to be F-35A models. The rest will be F-35Bs, which are set to be deployed on two Izumo-class warships that the Defense Ministry plans to convert into multipurpose aircraft carriers.

Last month, a Japanese F-35A crashed off Japan’s coast, with only portions of the jet’s wreckage found since then despite a monthlong search. The cause of the crash is under investigation. The jet’s pilot hasn’t been found. Japan has said that the crash would not affect its procurement plans, and it was unclear if the new revelations would spur any change.

The Pentagon program office said last year that “more than 1,500 suppliers are on the F-35 program and this is an isolated incident which is quickly being addressed and fixed. Safety is our primary goal.”

The defective part identified in the report provides operating pressure to the engine and fuel to the engine combustor.

Aside from the defect, Pratt & Whitney’s recent track record delivering engines on time has been spotty. Deliveries surged to 81 in 2018 from 48 in 2012, according to the GAO — yet 86 percent of those were delivered late, up from 48 percent in late 2017. The delays were due in part to an increase in the “average number of quality issues per engine” — 941 in 2018 against 777 a year earlier, the GAO said.

Pratt & Whitney told the GAO that “its late engine deliveries increased in 2018 partially due to a subcontractor that did not have all of the needed tooling in place to produce more F-35B engines,” according to the report.

 

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‘You can’t see them’: Japan set to buy 100+ US F-35 stealth fighter jets, Trump boasts
27 May, 2019

Tokyo has agreed to purchase 105 brand-new US-produced F-35 warplanes, US President Donald Trump said on Monday during his state visit to Japan. The announcement comes as Washington locks horns with Turkey over the planes.

The arms deal would give Japan the largest F-35 fleet among Washington’s allies, Trump told reporters following talks with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
Sharing some wisdom, the US president also proudly explained that the planes are “stealth because the fact is you can't see them.” Lavishing more praise on the fifth-generation high-tech weaponry, he noted that Tokyo was among the top buyers of American arms last year.

The upcoming deal, which may reportedly cost Japan a whopping $10 billion, has been discussed since December 2018 as Shinzo Abe’s government approved an increase in the country’s order for Lockheed Martin’s stealth fighters.

Meanwhile Japan’s existing fleet of F-35A fighters has been recently plagued by technical problems resulting in at least seven emergency landings during the past two years. The latest incident, which occurred in early April, saw a combat plane disappearing off radars and crashing in northern Japan due to cooling and navigation issues.

In 2017, the Pentagon revealed that “2,769 deficiencies” were identified in the performance of F35 jets. Further reports suggested some F35s have a life span four times shorter than the expected 8,000 flights, while the aircrafts’ guns accuracy is “unacceptable.”

F35 is Lockheed Martin’s most lucrative weapons program, estimated at $1.2 trillion.

While Japan’s F-35 deals seem to run smoothly, deliveries to another NATO ally, Turkey, were blocked by the US over Ankara’s purchase of Russian S-400 air defense systems. Washington demands the S-400s are replaced with US Patriot batteries and has threatened to exclude Turkey from the F-35 program. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan however maintains that Ankara is not going to step back on the S-400 deal, indicating that “it is a defense system, not an attack system.”

 

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'Flaws' in data for Aegis Ashore deployment rile Japan's politicians
June 6, 2019
By Elizabeth Shim

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Japan's Defense Minister Takeshi Iwaya apologized for data mistakes related to Aegis Ashore deployment on Thursday. File Photo by Keizo Mori/UPI | License Photo

June 6 (UPI) -- Japan's Akita city is asking for an explanation from the central government about a decision to deploy the missile defense system Aegis Ashore in the region, following revelations government data was found to contain flaws.

Controversy began soon after Defense Minister Takeshi Iwaya told a parliamentary committee on national security there were several mistakes in the survey documents that supported the need to deploy missile interceptors in Akita, Kyodo News reported Thursday.

"I am extremely sorry this ruins the credibility of the entire investigation," Iwaya said Thursday.

Japan's military is admitting fault after it had stated a training site for the nation's self-defense force, located near the city of Akita and Yamaguchi prefecture, would be most suitable for Aegis Ashore deployment.


The defense ministry said on May 27 that 19 other candidate sites were "unfit" for Aegis Ashore deployment, Jiji Press reported.

The government survey in question included errors for terrain data on nine other areas that provided comparisons to the designated site.

Gov. Norihisa Satake of Akita Prefecture said the mistakes "significantly damage trust" with the central government.

Japan plans to deploy two Aegis Ashore interceptors, largely to prepare for possible North Korea ballistic missile attacks. In May, Pyongyang tested several short-range missiles.

The Aegis Ashore systems were approved for purchase in January by U.S. State Department. Total cost of the system is estimated at more than $2 billion.

"This proposed sale will provide the government of Japan with an enhanced capability against increasingly sophisticated ballistic missile threats and create an expanded, layered defense of its homeland," the State Department said in January.

 

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Missing Japanese F-35A pilot's death confirmed by Ministry of Defense
June 07, 2019

View attachment 7622

TOKYO -- The pilot who went missing after the F-35A stealth fighter he was flying crashed into the Pacific Ocean just off of Aomori Prefecture in northern Japan has been confirmed to have died, Minister of Defense Takeshi Iwaya said at a June 7 press conference.

Maj. Akinori Hosomi
of the 3rd Air Wing's 302nd Tactical Fighter Squadron was classified missing following the aircraft's crash into the sea after taking off from Japan Air Self-Defense Force's (JASDF) Misawa Base in Misawa, Aomori Prefecture, on April 9, 2019.

At a June 7 press conference held after a Cabinet meeting, Iwaya confirmed that Maj. Hosomi had died. He said that body parts discovered among the aircraft's dispersed wreckage were confirmed to be Maj. Hosomi's remains on June 5.

The JASDF's investigation into the crash continues, with a potential human element and other variables being raised as possible causes for the accident. JASDF intends to continue flying its remaining F35-A stealth fighters once safety measures in response to the cause have been established.

Iwaya said, "It is a source of immense regret to lose such an excellent pilot. We offer our heartfelt sympathies to the family."

(Japanese original by Naritake Machida, City News Department)

 

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Spatial disorientation likely cause of Japanese F-35 crash, review says
June 10, 2019
By Clyde Hughes

View attachment 7825
A U.S. Air Force F-35A is seen at Al Dhafra Air Base in the United Arab Emirates on April 24. File Photo by U.S. Air Force/Staff Sgt. Chris Drzazgowski

June 10 (UPI) -- A pilot's spatial disorientation likely caused the crash of a Japanese F-35 fighter jet this spring, Japan's defense minister said after the release of a preliminary report.

Minister Takeshi Iwaya told reporters the pilot, Maj. Akinori Hosomi, 41, is thought to have lost his bearings during an exercise in April with Japan's Air Self-Defense Force and showed no signs of ejecting before the crash. Japan had grounded its fleet of 13 F-35As after the crash.

The ministry said the pilot, who had accumulated 3,200 flight hours, appeared to fly the fighter directly into the ocean during the night training exercise.

The ministry said the pilot, whose body was found a week ago, appeared to lose his bearings during a high-speed descent but was not aware of it. He had been communicating with the control tower before the accident without any indication of trouble, investigators said.

Spatial disorientation can account for as many as 10 percent of all aviation accidents, most of which are fatal.

"We will fully enforce training to avoid spatial disorientation and will fully explain to local residents before deciding to resume flights," Iwaya said.

The Japanese air force said it will begin flying the F-35 again soon.

 

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Shinzo Abe: Japan should develop next generation of fighter jets
June 11, 2019
By Elizabeth Shim

View attachment 7893
Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Tuesday Japan should develop military planes domestically. File Photo by Keizo Mori/UPI | License Photo

June 11 (UPI) -- Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Tuesday Japan should develop fighter jets domestically, following an agreement with the United States to purchase more than 100 F-35s.

The fighter jet would be the next generation aircraft modeled after the F-2, which is to be retired starting in the 2030s, NHK reported.

Abe made the remarks while meeting with lawmakers of his ruling Liberal Democratic Party.

"It is important Japan leads the development of the next generation of fighters," Abe reportedly told politicians in Tokyo. "It is also important the planes have the ability to cooperate with U.S. aircraft."

Japan agreed to the F-35 purchase as it seeks to defend itself from countries like North Korea and China.

Abe has previously told U.S. President Donald Trump acquiring high-performance weapons is important for Japan's defense capabilities.

Japan has also purchased missile interceptor Aegis Ashore from the United States. The central government seeks to deploy the missile defense in Akita Prefecture, despite opposition from Akita Gov. Norihisa Satake.

Satake and local residents in Akita are opposing Aegis Ashore deployment after geographical data in survey documents was found to contain flaws. Asahi Shimbun reported earlier in the week government workers used free software Google Earth to make measurements of candidate sites, before selecting a military base near Akita city for $2 billion worth of military equipment.

Defense Minister Takeshi Iwaya has apologized for the incident, Kyodo News reported Tuesday.

"We're very sorry. It was inappropriate as the behavior lacked a sense of alertness in such an extremely important situation," Iwaya said.

Satake has also complained about a defense ministry official who was napping during a briefing for Akita residents.

"It's truly regrettable," Satake said.

 

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USS Ronald Reagan, Japanese carrier conduct joint exercise in South China Sea
By Allen Cone
June 12, 2019

View attachment 7935
The USS Ronald Reagan (left) sails with a Japanese destroyer Tuesday in the South China Sea. Photo courtesy Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force

June 12 (UPI) -- Two aircraft carrier strike groups -- the USS Ronald Reagan CSG and ships from Japan's MSDF -- conducted a joint naval exercise in the South China Sea from Monday through Wednesday, the U.S. 7th Fleet said.

Japan's Maritime Self-Defense Force sent the Izumo carrier group to work with the Reagan CSG as part of a cooperative deployment, the U.S. 7th Fleet said in a press release.

The Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force Izumo carrier group consists of the JS Izumo and the Murasame-class destroyers, JS Murasame and JS Akebone, as well as five military aircraft, all helicopters.

The Navy didn't disclose the USS Ronald Reagan's companion ships but each strike group usually consists of up to 12 surface ships, including Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers, Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruisers, one or two nuclear-powered fast attack submarines and up to 75 aircraft.

Reagan, Akebono, Izumo and Murasame "conducted communication checks, tactical maneuvering drills and liaison officer exchanges designed to address common maritime security priorities and enhance interoperability at sea," according to a U.S. Navy news release.

"Having a Japanese liaison officer aboard to coordinate our underway operations has been beneficial and efficient," Lt. Mike Malakowsky, a tactical actions officer aboard Ronald Reagan, said in the news release. "As we continue to operate together with the JMSDF, it makes us a cohesive unit. They are an integral part of our Strike Group that doubles our capability to respond to any situation."

The Ronald Reagan, a Nimitz-class carrier, operates in the Indo-Pacific region to protect and defend maritime interests of its allies and partners.

"The time we are able to spend at sea training and operating with our partners in the Japan Self Defense Forces is invaluable," said Capt. Pat Hannifin, Ronald Reagan's commanding officer. "Our alliance has never been stronger, and it's never been more important to this region than right now."

The USS Ronald Reagan departed its home port in Yokosuka, Japan, on May 22 for its first operational deployment this year.

The JS Izumo's Indo-Pacific deployment began April 30 and runs through July 10, The Diplomat reported.

The Japanese flattop and its escort are conducting exercises with the naval forces of Brunei, India, the Philippines, Vietnam, and Singapore.

Last month, U.S. President Donald Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe toured the JS Izumo's sister ship, JS Kaga, at the Yokosuka naval base south of Tokyo.

The Japanese cabinet approved the conversion of the two warships into full-fledged aircraft carriers capable of launching the F-35B aircraft.

 

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Japan to test infrared sensors for early warning satellites
By Elizabeth Shim
June 12, 2019
View attachment 7948
North Korea's tests of ballistic missiles is prompting Japan to consider launching an early-warning satellite into space. Photo by Franck Robichon/EPA

June 12 (UPI) -- Japan is considering the deployment of early warning satellites designed to detect ballistic missile launches, according to a Japanese press report.

Sankei Shimbun reported Wednesday the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, or JAXA, is looking into tests of infrared sensors for early-warning satellites in 2020.

The missile defense alarm system could provide advance notice of North Korea ballistic missile launches. In April and May, Pyongyang tested short-range projectiles in multiple rounds.

Tokyo's aerospace agency is planning to install the infrared sensor on an Advanced Optical Satellite, or ALOS-3, which can be launched on a H2A rocket -- an active expendable launch system operated by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries.

The sensors use advanced semiconductors with sensitivity to two infrared wavelengths, according to the Sankei.

Japan is expected to test the sensor until 2024. After the sensor is tested, Tokyo will then decide whether it will launch a rocket to place an early-warning satellite in orbit.

The ALOS-3 is an earth observation satellite capable of seeing activities from orbit at a distance of more than 400 miles above Earth.

Japan is also planning to build a database from the infrared tests; the United States is already constructing a similar database, identifying the types of ballistic missiles North Korea has fired, based on their infrared characteristics.

Japan's satellite plans are being worked on as Prime Minister Shinzo Abe begins his state visit to Iran.

The BBC reported Wednesday Abe is the first Japanese prime minister to visit Iran in four decades.

Abe could try to ease tensions between the United States and Iran, as the two countries have disputed over a nuclear deal that was reached in 2015 during the Obama administration -- a deal from which the United States withdrew in 2018.

Abe is expected to meet supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Thursday

 

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