On Tuesday, a Japanese F-35 fighter crashed into the Pacific Ocean. Now, investigators are racing to uncover answers. The F-35 has been plagued by setbacks and delays. The crash is raising yet more skepticism of what is ultimately the most expensive weapons system developed in modern history.
The pilot of the plane had signaled that he’d need to abort the mission. The pilot did not, however, issue a mayday call. This would suggest that he felt that he was in control of the plane. Shortly thereafter, the plane disappeared from radar. Debris of the plane has already been found but answers remain elusive.
Early reports suggest system failure rather than pilot error. The pilot, who has not yet been named, was 40 years old and had more than 3,200 hours of flight experience. The pilot is still missing and it is unclear if he was able to eject.
While most F-35s are manufactured in the United States, this one actually rolled off an assembly line in Nagoya, Japan. Japan has moved to ground its F-35 fleet until the problem is uncovered. It cost $100 million or more to build each F-35.
This past September, another F-35 went down in South Carolina. An investigation later revealed that a faulty fuel tube was likely the cause. The crash caused F-35s around the world to be grounded. The F-35 program has also been plagued by oxygen deprivation issues, and in 2014 one caught fire on a runway in Florida.
The F-35 is projected to cost $1.5 trillion or more over its projected 55-year lifespan. Repeated failures, however, have many questioning the skyhigh costs.