Wreckage from a Japanese F-35A stealth fighter jet has been found a day after it disappeared off the radar over the Pacific.
There was no word yet on the fate of the pilot on board, Defence Minister Takeshi Iwaya said on Wednesday.
“We have collected part of its tail” in search operations at sea with planes and vessels, Iwaya told reporters, before adding: “We believe it crashed”.
The fighter jet went missing around 7:30pm local time (10:30 GMT) on Tuesday as it was flying on a training mission around 135km east of Misawa, northeastern Japan.
The plane lost contact about 30 minutes after taking off from Misawa airbase with three other aircraft.
“I would like to apologise to local residents for having caused concerns to them,” said Iwaya. “We will do our best to rescue the missing pilot.”
Japan is deploying F-35As, each of which costs more than 10 billion yen ($90m), to replace the ageing F-4 fighter jet.
The jet was one of 13 F-35s deployed at the base, according to a defence official.
The remaining 12 F-35A fighters have been grounded for the time being, according to the defence ministry.