PARIS --- Japan’s fleet of 13 Lockheed F-35A fighters suffered seven emergency landings since entering service, before one crashed in the Pacific Ocean on April 9, the Japanese Ministry of Defense said April 16.
The emergency landings took place between June 2017 and January 2019 during flight tests and drills, Mainichi Japan reported on Wednesday. It said “unplanned returns to base were made after the planes reported issues with systems relating to fuel, hydraulics and other parts.”
Mainichi reported that, of the 13 aircraft in service with the Japan Air Self-Defense Force, five have been forced to make emergency landings in seven separate incidents. Of these, two emergency landings were due to faults recorded in the aircraft that crashed last week. The ministry said it confirmed the aircraft were safe to fly after each incident, but a possible connection is still being investigated.
One case was due to an error by the aircraft's monitoring systems, but in the remaining six cases the fighters were inspected, and parts replaced, before they were confirmed safe and returned to flight, the Ministry said.
Final assembly of four of the aircraft which reported errors, including the fighter that went missing April 9, was carried out in Japan by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Ltd. The other aircraft were built in the US by Lockheed Martin in Fort Worth. 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.