A U.S. Air Force F-15 fighter jet crashed off the coast of Okinawa early Tuesday. The pilot survived the incident by ejecting before impact and was recovered safely, according to military officials.
It is unclear what caused the aircraft to develop mid-flight problems off the southern Japanese island.
The fighter jet was flying out of the Kadena Air Base – one of the largest U.S. airbases in the Asia-Pacific region. The fighter jet was attached to Kadena’s 18th Wing.
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At the time of the crash, the F-15 was approximately 70 miles east of Okinawa the military confirmed in a statement.
Tuesday's crash is the first such incident involving an F-15 out of Kadena since January 2006
, The Associated Press reported.
Lt. Col. David Honchul, the chief spokesman for the U.S. Forces, Japan, told the AP that the pilot was rescued by a Japanese air force helicopter.
The cause of the crash remains under investigation.
The military refused to release the pilot's name, saying only that he was in stable condition and was being evaluated at a military hospital on Okinawa.
Approximately 50,000 U.S. military personnel are stationed in Japan, half of which reside on Okinawa.
Introduced in 1976, the F-15 was designed in the late 1960s by the aerospace manufacturer and defense contractor McDonnell Douglas – which has since merged with Boeing.
Considered to be one of the top modern fighter jets, the F-15 has reportedly engaged in more than 100 aerial combat fights since its inception into the military. It has been victorious 100 percent of the time.
In addition to its renowned versatility in the air, the F-15 can climb to 30,000 feet in just 60 seconds and has an arsenal of various-sized missiles designed specifically for air-to-air engagements with the enemy.
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Due to its air superiority, the twin-engine, all-weather tactical fighter has been exported to various U.S. allies over the years and is currently used by Japan's Air Self-Defense Force, the Israeli Air Force, and the Royal Saudi Air Force.
The F-15 had a price tag of approximately $28 - $30 million per unit in the late 1990s.
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