Japan's Mitsubishi Heavy Industries has unveiled its first assembled F-35A stealth fighter Monday at its factory in Toyoyama, Aichi Prefecture.
Lockheed Martin is the main manufacturer of the fighter jet. Further the air self defense force (ASDF) considers deploying the fighter this fiscal 2017 that ends next March 31 at the Misawa Air Base in Aomori Prefecture.
The jet features high stealth capabilities and mobility, and is expected to collaborate in surveillance activities with F-35 aircraft operated by U.S. forces, The Japan Times reported Monday.
The F-35 was jointly developed by nine countries, including the United States, Britain and Australia.
Even though the Japanese firms were not involved in manufacturing of the aircraft they played their role in assembly and other manufacturing processes.
The ASDF plans to buy 42 of the jets. Four will be supplied as finished products under the US government’s Foreign Military Sales program.
“It is important to acquire F-35 fighters with advanced capabilities amid increasingly tough security conditions” Kenji Wakamiya, a senior vice defense minister, said.
This move will strengthen technology in the domestic defense industry, Wakamiya added.
Mitsubishi Heavy will also assemble the remaining 38 planes with components imported from the United States.
The first Japan-assembled unit will be used for flight training in the United States for ASDF pilots.
The F-35A, which has a wingspan of 11 meters and is 16 meters in length, is equipped with advanced sensor equipment that is believed to have missile detection and tracking capabilities.
IHI Corp. produces engine parts for the jets that will be supplied to the ASDF, while Mitsubishi Electric handles production of radar components. Countries that plan to introduce the F-35 have adopted a system to share parts, including those made in Japan.
In 2013, Japan excluded domestically manufactured F-35 parts from its arms export ban, saying that Japanese companies’ participation in the production is indispensable for maintaining fighter jet operation and maintenance bases in the country.