The Japanese government has announced its intention to acquire as many as 42 Lockheed Martin F-35B short takeoff and vertical landing (STOVL) fighters, as well as an additional 63 conventional F-35A fighters on top of the 42 F-35As currently on order, to take its total fleet of F-35s to 147 aircraft.
The anticipated announcement was made as part of a larger defence review announced by the Japanese government on December 18. The plan calls for an initial buy of 18 F-35Bs to stand up the capability and to integrate the aircraft with Japan’s two 27,000t Izumo class helicopter destroyers (DDH), JMS Izumo and Kaga.
Other F-35B operators include the US Marine Corps, the UK and Italy, although Italy’s requirement is currently under review. If fulfilled, the order would make Japan the second largest F-35 operator after the US, and would align it with US and allied interests and integrate it with allied capabilities in the region as a counter to China’s regional geo-political and military aspirations.
It would also mark the first time Japan has employed an offensive aircraft carrier capability since the end of WW2.