By Bijan Razzaghi
Japan has announced its intention to purchase as many as 100 F-35s worth $8.8 billion. The announcement comes as Japan is rapidly working on modernizing its Air Force to counter 5th generation threats and A2/AD defenses deployed by nearby China. Japan initially purchased 42 F-35As to replace its ageing F-4DJ/EJs and complement its existing fleet of F-15CJ/DJs and F-2 Support Fighters. There is also the possibility that Japan will consider buying a mix of F-35As and VTOl F-35Bs. The F-35B variants can be deployed from Japan’s many Islands as well as the Izumo class helicopter carrier recently renamed aircraft carrier by Japan’s ministry of defense.
The F-35B will further enhance Japan’s maritime defense capabilities allowing the JSDF to rapidly deploy F-35Bs to defende territorial waters and islands from attacks and incursions. The stealth capabilities of the F-35B will give the JSDF with the ability to deploy up to 2x 1000 lb JDAM or 3x 250 lb SDBs against targets defended by A2/AD defenses such as the S-300PMU and HQ-9 systems. Destroyers operated by China such as Type 52D employ the HQ-9 SAM system creating roughly a 124 mi (200 km) area denial radius around the ship. The F-35B can deter and circumvent these threats allowing for improved safeguarding of Japan’s territorial waters.
F-35Bs can also operate from small airbases on Japan’s more isolated Islands allowing for an improved combat radius and faster intercept times. The F-35B will also allow Japan to have the capability to get aircraft airborne in the wake of an attack on Japan’s air bases. In addition to the F-35B the F-35A will further enhance the JSDFs stealth strike capability along side the F-2A being able to operate in high threat environments where the F-2A might be vulnerable.
A final announcement on the deal has not yet been made yet if finalized should see Japan introducing its first batch of these 100 F-35A/Bs by 2026. In addition to Japan Italy has also purchased the F-35B to replace its ageing AV-8B Harrier IIs operating from the Italian Navy’s Cavour class aircraft carrier.
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