Talking to Reuters Takeshi Iwaya, the Japanese Defence Minister explained that the Japanese Air Self-Defense Force (JASDF) believe that pilot disorientation caused the loss of one of the nations F-35A Lightning II jets on 9 April 2019.
To quote the minister, [it was] “highly likely the pilot was suffering from vertigo or spatial disorientation and wasn’t aware of his condition.” The minister also went onto confirm that no distress signal was ever received, nor is there any evidence of an ejection attempt.
28 minutes after taking off from Misawa air base all contact was lost with the aircraft. Whilst we will never know for sure what happened one of the advantages of the F-35 over preceding generations of combat aircraft is that it can transmit data back to base, meaning that investigators have been able to glean details from the aircrafts Multifunction Advanced Data Link alongside the usual primary and secondary radar data.
It is unlikely that the aircraft will ever be recovered, due to the area where the aircraft crashed having a seabed some kilometre and a half underwater. Some parts have though been recovered, including an almost destroyed section of the flight data recorder or “black box.”
Nick Ashwell-Rice has worked in aviation and defence journalism since 2014 whilst also maintaining a career outside of the industry. He has been Editor-in-Chief at Talking Aero since its inception