The Japanese government is considering the possibility of acquiring US-made F-35B fighter jets in future, as it is looking into remodelling Tokyo’s Izumo helicopter carrier.
The 248-metre (814-feet) Izumo, Japan's largest warship equipped with a flat flight deck, was designed with an eye to hosting F-35B fighters. Its elevator connecting the deck with the hangar can carry the aircraft, the government sources told Reuters.
Three government sources close to the matter were quoted as saying that the Japanese government was keeping in sight the possible future procurement of F-35B fighter jets, which can take off and land vertically, as it looks into the remodelling of the Izumo.
Any refit of the Izumo would be aimed at preparing for a scenario in which runways in Japan had been destroyed by missile attacks, and at bolstering defence around Japan's southwestern islands, where China's maritime activity has increased.
Possible refitting measures included adding a curved ramp at the end of the flight deck, improving the deck's heat resistance against jet burners, and reinforcing the ship's air traffic control capability, they said.
However, Japanese Defence Minister Itsunori Onodera said the government was not taking any concrete steps towards refitting the Izumo.
"Regarding our defence posture, we are constantly conducting various examinations. But no concrete examination is under way on the introduction of F-35B or remodelling of Izumo-class destroyers," Onodera told reporters on Tuesday.