TOKYO, June 10 (Xinhua) -- Japanese Defense Minister Takeshi Iwaya on Monday said the crash off northern Japan two months ago of an Air Self-Defense Force (ASDF) F-35A stealth fighter was likely caused by the pilot being disoriented, rather than a technical problem.
Iwaya told a press briefing on the matter that regardless of the amount of flying time a pilot has clocked up, it's still possible to fall into "spatial disorientation" and the fact the pilot had been flying in darkness could also have been a contributing factor.
He also said, while confirming Japan's plan to purchase more F-35As from the United States and deploy a total of 105 of the multi-role, front-line fighters, that steps would be taken to avoid such a mishap, which led to the death of Maj. Akinori Hosomi on April 9, from occurring again.
"We will fully enforce training to avoid spatial disorientation and will fully explain to local residents before deciding to resume flights by the remaining F-35As," Iwaya said, adding that intensive inspections of the remaining 12 F-35As at Misawa Air Base in the northeastern prefecture of Aomori would be carried out.
In addition, Iwaya, who said he plans to lift the ban on flights of the 12 stealth fighters that were grounded after the incident, said that pilots of the stealth fighter will undergo further rigorous training, including the use of equipment to avoid them becoming disoriented.