Photo/IllutrationAn F-35A stealth fighter jet that went missing in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Aomori Prefecture on April 9. (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

  • Photo/Illustraion

Parts of an F-35A stealth fighter jet that went missing off the coast of Aomori Prefecture were discovered near the crash site, but the flight data recording was not among the debris, the Defense Ministry announced on May 7.

A deep-sea recovery ship retrieved parts of the aircraft including part of the flight recorder equipment but not the recorded data itself, Defense Minister Takeshi Iwaya said at a news conference.

The F-35A, belonging to the Air Self-Defense Force's Misawa air base in the prefecture, crashed into the Pacific Ocean on April 9 while it was participating in a combat exercise involving other fighter jets.

The pilot of the aircraft remains missing, despite an extensive search by the Self-Defense Forces and the U.S. military. It was the first-ever crash of an F-35A, which conducts normal take-offs and landings like other planes.

According to Iwaya, the U.S.-chartered deep-sea ship retrieved the parts from the sea bottom, based on information collected by the underwater research vessel Kaimei, belonging to the Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology (JAMSTEC), which is assisting in the search for the missing fuselage.

The Maritime Self-Defense Force confirmed the parts as coming from the F-35A by May 3.