NATIONAL

Korea’s F-35A procurement unaffected by crash in Japan: ministry

By Jo He-rim
  • Published : Apr 11, 2019 - 17:36
  • Updated : Apr 11, 2019 - 17:36

Following the recent crash of an F-35A in Japan, countries who also deploy the stealth fighter jet manufactured by US-based Lockheed Martin have raised concerns regarding its safety and functioning.

According to the Japanese Defense Ministry, an F-35A fighter jet crashed into the Pacific Ocean close to northern Japan on Tuesday evening. The wreckage from the warplane’s tail was found and recovered from the sea late Tuesday night. 

Japan Coast Guard vessel and a US military aircraft conduct rescue and search operations at the site where an Air Self-Defense Force's F-35A stealth fighter jet crashed during an exercise on Tuesday, off Aomori prefecture, Japan. (Reuters-Yonhap)

The jet was one of the first 13 to be deployed by Japan’s Air Self-Defense Force, and the remaining planes have been grounded.

While the cause of the crash remains unknown, it has triggered concerns here as Korea’s Air Force has just received the first two F-35A stealth fighters from the US on March 29.

The delivery was part of a deal made in 2014, when the government purchased 40 stealth fighters for about 7.4 trillion won ($6.8 billion). More than 10 F-35A fighter jets are set to arrive here by the end of this year, and the rest will be delivered by 2021.

The Ministry of National Defense said the recent crash will not influence its purchase of the fighter jets as there have been no safety notices from the US Pacific Air Force.

“(The crashed model) is a little different from the one we purchased, and I believe (the incident) will not influence our Air Force,” Defense Ministry spokeswoman Choi Hyun-soo said during a regular press briefing on Thursday.

“We made an inquiry with the US Pacific Air Force, and it has not given a recommendation to any of the countries possessing the same model, including the US, to suspend flights. So, for now, we expect the (deal) to go ahead as planned.”

The Korean Air Force has explained that the stealth fighters it is going to deploy will come directly from the US, unlike Japan’s warplane that was assembled and checked by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries before delivery.

It is the first crash involving an F-35A, which is designed to evade radar detection. According to the Japanese Defense Ministry, the jet that crashed was less than a year old and was delivered in May 2018. The pilot’s body is yet to be found.

By Jo He-rim (herim@heraldcorp.com)