UPDATED October 7 with more images and quotes.
Japan has conducted trials of the short take off and vertical landing (STOVL) Lockheed Martin F-35B aboard its newly-converted 27,000 tonne helicopter destroyer (DDH), JS Izumo.
The October 3 trials were reportedly conducted in the Pacific southeast of the smallest of the home islands, Shikoku, and Izumo worked with two US Marine Corps F-35Bs from VMFA 242, one of two USMC F-35B squadrons based at Iwakuni near Hiroshima. Rather than embarking the aircraft at Iwakuni, they appear to have flown out to the vessel and back with USMC KC-130J tanker support.
“This trial has proved that the JS Izumo has the capability to support takeoffs and landings of STOVL aircraft at sea, which will allow us to provide an additional option for air defense in the Pacific Ocean in the near future”, JMSDF Rear Admiral Shukaku Komuta, commander of Escort Flotilla One said in a USMC release.
“We still have work to do until the day the JSDF can regularly employ STOVL aircraft at sea, but I am confident that the strong partnership and mutual trust between our two counties will result in its realisation,” Komuta added.
1st Marine Aircraft Wing Commanding General, Major General Brian W. Cavanaugh added, “We have the utmost confidence in the Joint Strike Fighter and are eager for our Japanese allies to have the same capabilities in their hands, which ultimately contributes to our shared goal of maintaining a free and open Indo-Pacific.”
Japan has stated a requirement for 42 F-35Bs, and is upgrading Izumo and sister ship Kaga with a modified deck and new coatings, aircraft handling equipment, fuel and weapons bunkerage, and air traffic control systems to operate the F-35B. The modification work on the vessels is reportedly due to be completed by 2026.
Video of the trials can be viewed in the following tweet.