Japan To Acquire More Stealth F-35 Jets From The US As Threat Level Rises From China, North Korea

To counter the increasing threat from China and North Korea, Japan has decided to bolster its defence capabilities by increasing the number of American F-35 fighter jets. 

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The Defense Ministry is looking at deploying new F-35A state-of-the-art stealth fighters to Air Self-Defense Force bases other than the current host, the Misawa base in Aomori Prefecture, reported The Japan Times.

“When the number of F-35s increases, new fighters may be deployed to bases other than Misawa that currently operate fighter jets,” a ministry official said. “As we need to gain approval from local communities, we have not decided yet where to deploy them.”

In another report, the Japanese Defence Ministry has requested for a whopping ¥5.49 trillion budget for fiscal 2021. A dispute between China and Japan looks imminent as both the countries lay claim on the Senkaku / Diaoyu Islands in the East China Sea. 

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File Image: F-35 Jets

Earlier, Tokyo announced the plan to procure 147 F-35 jets which would replace the F-16 warplanes. As Trump’s administration is working to counter China’s expansionist strategy, Washington had approved a sale of 105 F-35 worth $23 billion under the Joint Strike Fighter aircraft program. 

Beijing expressed concern about having such advanced jets in the region which could be detrimental to the security of both China and Russia. China also fears that Tokyo will amend its peaceful constitution at the behest of the US, its key defence partner, and become a hostile force. 

“The Japan Air Self-Defense Force’s F-4 aircraft are being decommissioned as F-35s are added to the inventory. Japan will have no difficulty absorbing these aircraft into its armed forces,” said the US Department of Defence.

The Misawa base has 17 F-35As which will increase to 20 in the next spring. The upgraded F-15 models are expected to be deployed continually to the Naha base in Okinawa Prefecture, which handles frequent scramble missions against Chinese planes, said the report.

Apart from the order of F-35 for the Japanese Air Self-Defense Force (JASDF), the defence ministry has also requested to raise funds for F-35B, the short takeoff-and-vertical-landing variant used by US Navy. 

The Japan Times report stated that the F-35B will be used for the defence of remote islands and Pacific coastal areas, which are covered by vast airspace. It will be carried by an Izumo-class helicopter carrier of the Maritime Self-Defense Force which is undergoing improvements to carry the F-35s. 

Japan today is facing an increasing threat from China’s expansionist claims on Japanese-held islands. North Korea is also a major adversary and Tokyo has finally decided to upgrade its capabilities to strike the enemy territory, if necessary. 

As reported earlier by EurAsian Times, Japan’s Defense Ministry plans to acquire by March 2022, Norwegian Joint Strike Missile (JSM). These anti-surface and anti-ship standoff missiles have a range of about 500 kilometers that can attack targets from outside the ranges of enemy missiles. These missiles will be mounted on F-35 to make use of the jet’s stealth capabilities.