TOYOYAMA, AICHI PREF. – The first F-35A stealth fighter assembled in Japan was unveiled Monday at a Mitsubishi Heavy Industries factory in Toyoyama, Aichi Prefecture.
The Air Self-Defense Force plans to deploy the cutting-edge fighter this fiscal 2017 year, which ends next March 31, at the Misawa Air Base in Aomori Prefecture.
The jet features high stealth capabilities and mobility, and is expected to collaborate in surveillance activities with F-35 aircraft operated by U.S. forces.
The F-35 was jointly developed by nine countries, including the United States, Britain and Australia. Lockheed Martin is the main manufacturer.
Japanese companies did not participate in the development, but they have been involved in assembly and other manufacturing processes.
The ASDF plans to buy 42 of the jets. Four will be supplied as finished products under the U.S. government’s Foreign Military Sales program.
Kenji Wakamiya, a senior vice defense minister, said it is important “to acquire F-35 fighters with advanced capabilities” amid increasingly tough security conditions — a move that will strengthen technology in the domestic defense industry.
Mitsubishi Heavy will assemble the remaining 38 planes with components imported from the United States.
The first Japan-assembled unit will be used for flight training for ASDF pilots that will be conducted in the United States.
The F-35A, which has a wingspan of 11 meters and is 16 meters in length, is equipped with advanced sensor equipment that is believed to have missile detection and tracking capabilities.
IHI Corp. produces engine parts for the jets that will be supplied to the ASDF, while Mitsubishi Electric handles production of radar components. Countries that plan to introduce the F-35 have adopted a system to share parts, including those made in Japan.
In 2013, Japan excluded domestically manufactured F-35 parts from its arms export ban, saying that Japanese companies’ participation in the production is indispensable for maintaining fighter jet operation and maintenance bases in the country.