The Japanese Self Defence Force plans to order a mix of 100 Lockheed Martin F-35As and Bs to add to the 42 F-35As it already has in service or on order, Japan’s Nikkei news service has reported.
The F-35As would be used to replace some of the older F-15Js Japan has in service which are deemed not suitable to be upgraded, while the F-35Bs reportedly will be embarked upon the JMSDF’s two Izumo class helicopter destroyers. The planned numerical breakdown between each model is not known, but some commentators have suggested it would be in the order of 70 F-35As and 30 F-35Bs.
Approval for the purchase is reported as likely to come in mid-December when the Japanese Government tables its new National Defense Program Guidelines. Japan currently operates about 200 F-15Js, and plans to upgrade about half of them to a standard similar to Boeing’s Advanced F-15 standard.
The Izumo/F-35B combination would likely be employed in defence of Japan’s remote islands, some of which are disputed territory claimed by China, and others which are close to maritime borders with Russia, Korea and China.
The two Izumo class vessels, Izumo and Kaga would require modifications including the integration of an air traffic management system, increased fuel and weapons bunkerage, and possibly a ski-jump ramp in order to operate about 10-12 F-35Bs.