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.
“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.
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.
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.