F-35B STOVL stealth fighters are to be operational by fiscal 2026 with delivery starting from 2024
Yomiuri Shimbun is reporting that Japan Air Self Defence Force (JASDF) intends to replace some aging F-15Js with the F-35B and defense officials are mulling the exact number to buy in the next Medium Term Defense Program.
The jets are to be operational by fiscal 2026 with delivery starting from 2024. The same report added that the number of F-35As will be boosted from the current 42.
As we have already reported Japan was considering the purchase of F-35B short take-off and vertical landing (STOVL) stealth fighters so that it can deploy fighters further south in the Okinawa Prefecture.
The Japan Self-Defense Force (JSDF) is barred from deploying military aircraft to Shimochijima airport, which has the longest runway in the Ryukyu Islands. Therefore, defense officials are thinking of using the F-35B at airports with shorter runways.
The Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force has also commissioned a study on enhancing JS Izumo’s aircraft operational capability. Nevertheless the deployment of F-35Bs on the Izumo-class helicopter destroyers are bound to draw controversy during current laws. The ships will have to be modified with ski-jumps and upgraded aviation fuel storage facilities. Actually, Tokyo might even build a new-class of ship to handle the F-35B.
As for 102 F-15Js that were previously upgraded, the plan is to further enhance them with new avionics.
Tokyo in fact is exploring the possibility of modifying F-15J all-weather air superiority fighters to give them a ground strike capability.
Sources said the government is planning to have the Boeing jet carry the JASSM-ER (Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile – Extended Range) cruise missile.
Last December a government source said Japan’s Defense Ministry “is in the final stage of arrangements to include costs for research on airframe modifications to introduce it into the fiscal 2018 budget.”
Thanks to JASSM-ER standoff capability Japan would be able to attack North Korea directly from the airspace over the Sea of Japan, without approaching the country.
Photo credit: screenshot from video and Ssgt. James R. Ferguson / U.S. Air Force
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