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Fears of F-35 Software Hack as Search Underway for Missing Japanese Warplane

On Tuesday, Tokyo reportedly announced the deployment of a special state-of-the-art vessel as part of the ongoing around-the-clock search for the Japanese Air Self-Defence Force’s missing F-35A fighter jet, which disappeared from radars during drills over the Pacific Ocean on 9 April.

With a missing Japanese F-35A fighter yet to be tracked down, the US military has suggested that the software of this fifth-generation warplane could be hacked, Nikkei reports.

According to the Japanese media outlet, the US military “is believed to be looking into this risk with respect to the OBOGS (on-board oxygen generation systems) malfunctions” which are thought to be behind the crash of the Japanese Air Self-Defence Force (JASDF)’s F-35A jet.

READ MORE: Japanese Military Found F-35 Debris, Pilot Still Missing — Reports

“There are worries that the F-35A and the F-22 (fighter jet) can be hacked — perhaps during system updates — to plant the seeds for future software problems," Nikkei noted.

This comes after the newspaper Yomiuri Shimbun cited unnamed Japanese government sources as saying that the US proposed handing the secret codes to the software installed in the F-35 air-frame to control parts, including the engine and the missiles, to Japan.

Earlier, Japanese Defence Minister Takeshi Iwaya told the Japan Times that “the F-35A is an airplane that contains a significant amount of secrets that need to be protected”.

The newspaper also quoted an unnamed Japanese Defence Ministry spokesman as saying that the remains of the missing jet’s tail had been found but that they had yet to track down the rest of the fuselage, as well as the remains of the pilot.

READ MORE: Japan to Continue Buying American F-35 Jets Despite Recent Plane Crash — MoD

Takeshi, for his part, had previously announced that Tokyo would ground the JASDF's whole fleet of F-35A fighters in connection with the crash, but he then made an about-face by announcing that Japan has not changed its F-35 acquisition plan.

In the latest development, the Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology research vessel Kaimei reportedly joined the search for the missing jet.

The ship is equipped with echo-sounders and magnetometers, and also carries an unmanned submersible capable of reaching depths of up to 3,000 metres.

READ MORE: Japan Searches for Crashed F-35 Jet Underwater to Recover Debris ASAP

Boeing P-8A Poseidon - Sputnik International
US Navy P-8A, Destroyer Join Japan Military in Search for F-35A Pilot
The JASDF’s F-35A Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter, while being flown by 41-year-old Major Akinori Hosomi, reportedly disappeared from radars on 9 April, 135 kilometres (84 miles) east of Misawa Air Base, located in the country's northern Aomori prefecture.

The incident took place during a training flight involving four F-35A fighters; it is the first case of an F-35A crashing, as the warplane, introduced in 2016, has only recently come into service in various countries.

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