Japan will fly the F-35A Lightning II fighter jet for the first time by year’s end.
The first four stealth planes earmarked for Japan will roll off a production line in Fort Worth, Texas, in November, said Eric W. Schnaible, the company’s F-35 international communications manager. Schnaible will also visit Nagoya and Misawa facilities associated with the aircraft later this month, Stars and Stripes reported Wednesday.
Japanese pilots are slated to take off in the jets for the first time at Luke Air Force Base, Ariz., where Australian, Norwegian and Italian personnel are already learning to pilot the F-35, he said.
Japan is one of eight countries jointly developing the high-tech fighter. With a price tag of $1 trillion, it’s become America’s most costly weapon.
The first of 38 additional Japanese F-35s will roll out of Nagoya next year, said Schnaible, who is also the former U.S. Forces Japan public affairs chief.
The new jets will be stationed at Misawa alongside U.S. F-16s from the 35th Fighter Wing, with F-35 pilot training eventually taking place in Japan, he said.
Many of the first F-35 pilots are transitioning from other aircraft such as Harriers, F-16s or F-18s. However, the Marine Corps and Air Force recently began sending pilots to train on the aircraft immediately after flight school, Schnaible said.