Tokyo (CNN)Wreckage from a Japanese F-35 stealth fighter that crashed into the Pacific almost a month ago has been recovered, Japan's defense minister said Tuesday, but the reason for the loss of one of the world's most advanced warplanes remains a mystery.
Pieces of lost Japanese stealth fighter found
Pieces of the jet's flight recorder and cockpit canopy have been lifted from the ocean floor, Defense Minister Takeshi Iwaya told reporters in Tokyo.
He described the condition of the flight recorder as "terrible" and said the device's memory part was missing, leaving investigators still wondering how the US-designed jet crashed April 9.
The jet and its pilot, Maj. Akinori Hosomi, went missing while on a training mission from Misawa Air Base in northern Japan.
Hosomi, a 41-year-old with 3,200 hours of flight experience, was last heard from when he signaled to his squadron mates that he would have to abort the mission before his craft disappeared from radar.
Pieces of the plane's tail fins were recovered from the sea shortly thereafter, but noting else turned up until May 3, when the US Navy-chartered deep-sea diving support vessel Van Gogh collected a part of the flight recorder, Iwaya said Tuesday.
The US-chartered ship was acting on information gleaned by Japan's deep sea research ship Kaimei, which carries a remotely operated submarine and equipment to grab samples from the seabed.
Japan's Defense Ministry did not reveal exactly where or at what depth the latest pieces were found. The plane was east of Misawa Air Base over the Pacific when it disappeared.
The Defense Ministry said the search for more wreckage would continue and includes a Japanese destroyer as well as chartered commercial salvage ships.