The Nikkei says Japan’s government intends to buy another 100 F-35 fighters to replace some of its aging F-15s.
It plans to announce the purchase when it reviews the National Defense Program Guidelines next month.
The purchase can be considered a response to China’s military buildup, as well as a nod to U.S. President Donald Trump’s call for Tokyo to buy more American defense equipment. Japan already intended to procure 42 of the new fighters by fiscal 2024 to replace the F-4.
The Nikkei speculates that the order could include the B-variant. This will allow Japan to operate the F-35 from its Izumo-class warships.
Currently Japan deploys about 200 F-15s, roughly half of which cannot be upgraded. The Defense Ministry wants to replace the planes that cannot be upgraded with the 100 F-35s, while enhancing and retaining the remaining F-15s.
Japan’s neighbors are busy introducing their own advanced military aircraft. China deployed its J-20 stealth fighter in February, and by 2030 some experts expect the country to build a fleet of more than 250 fifth-generation jets – as the latest generation of fighters like the F-35 is known.
Russia, too, is expected to introduce its fifth-generation Sukhoi Su-57 in 2019, at the earliest.
To keep up, Tokyo believes it is imperative to significantly increase its procurement of the most sophisticated stealth jets.
At the same time, Trump has repeatedly urged Japan to purchase more American hardware and reduce the trade imbalance between the countries. Buying more of the high-priced fighters is a quick way to do that.
In September, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told Trump, “Introducing high-performance equipment, including American [materiel], is important for our country to strengthen its defense capabilities.”
Photo credit: Lockheed Martin
Artwork courtesy of AircraftProfilePrints.com
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