Air Platforms

Japan considers procuring F-35B for its Izumo-class helicopter carriers

27 November 2018

F-35Bs on board USS America in November 2016. Japan is now considering operating the type from its two Izumo-class helicopter carriers. Source: Credit: Lockheed Martin

Key Points

  • Japan is examining whether to buy F-35B STOVL JSFs as well as F-35A CTOL variants
  • The JMSDF’s Izumo-class helicopter carriers could be adapted to accommodate F-35B operations

Japanese Defence Minister Takeshi Iwaya said on 27 November that Tokyo is considering buying the F-35B short take-off and vertical landing (STOVL) variant of the Lockheed Martin Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) and, as a consequence of this, modifying the Japan Maritime Self Defense Force’s (JMSDF’s) two Izumo-class helicopter carriers to facilitate F-35B operations.

Iwaya suggested Japan’s Ministry of Defense (MoD) will stipulate all of this in the National Defense Program Guidelines (NDPGs) set to be drawn up by the end of the year.

“Since we are equipped with such vessels, it is desirable that we will use them for various purposes,” Iwaya said at a regular press conference.

“We would like to advance our research and studies on this” with a view to revising the NDPGs, he added.

On the procurement of the F-35Bs, Iwaya said, “It’s the aircraft capable of taking off and landing from short runways, so we are studying it as part of how we establish the whole aircraft system.”

The Nikkei Shimbun newspaper reported on 27 November that Japan is preparing to order another 100 F-35s from the US to replace some of its ageing F-15 fighters, citing anonymous sources. The 42 fighters Tokyo originally planned to buy are all F-35A conventional take-off and landing (CTOL) variants. The additional 100 aircraft would include both F-35As and F-35Bs.

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