AOMORI – Japan on Friday deployed its first F-35A stealth fighter at Misawa Air Base in Aomori Prefecture to respond to airspace incursions and conduct surveillance on North Korea.
The Air Self-Defense Force plans to deploy nine more F-35As at the base in fiscal 2018 starting April to form a squadron of 10 fighter jets.
“The deployment of the high-performance F-35 aircraft is significant for Japan’s security at a time when neighboring countries have been quickly building up their air force capabilities in recent years,” Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera told reporters.
The ASDF aims to eventually acquire a total of 42 F-35As, which are known for their ability to evade radar. Manufactured by Lockheed Martin Corp., the 15.6-meter-long, 10.7-meter-wide next-generation fighter jet is meant to replace Japan’s aging fleet of F-4s.
For fiscal 2018, the government has earmarked expenses for purchasing long-range JSM missiles capable of attacking enemy bases from the F-35A. But Onodera said this wasn’t its purpose.
“The introduction of the missiles is not aimed at targeting enemy military bases. We rely on U.S. strike capabilities for attacking enemy bases and this will remain unchanged,” Onodera said.
The first deployed F-35A was assembled and inspected at a Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. plant in Aichi Prefecture before flying to Misawa.