Japan is considering the modification of its ‘Izumo’ helicopter carrier to be able to land and operate the F-35B short-take-off and vertical landing stealth fighter jets.
It is also mulling to increase the order of its 42 F-35A land based stealth fighters to 100 which will include a mix of the F-35A and F-35B versions, local media and agencies reported today.
The helicopter carrier, if remodeled with a strengthened runway could be called ‘multipurpose mother ship’ instead of ‘aircraft carrier’ so as not to flout the war-renouncing Article 9 of the Constitution which says that Tokyo cannot possess attack aircraft carriers as it is only allowed to use force for self-defense.
Modifying the helicopter carrier with stealth-aircraft capabilities is seen as necessary in the face of China’s maritime assertiveness in the waters around the disputed Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea.
The government plans to state its policy of renovating a destroyer so it can carry fighter jets in the defense buildup guidelines to be updated next month, Japan Times said quoting a government source.
“It is desirable that it will be used for as many purposes as possible,” Defense Minister Takeshi Iwaya said at a news conference in response to a question if the Izumo could be used as a carrier of stealth fighter jets. If remodeled, the Izumo would likely carry F-35B stealth jet fighters, which are capable of conducting short-range and vertical take-off and landing.
Asked if the ministry will introduce F-35Bs or not, Iwaya said it is “now conducting studies” on that option.
The ruling Liberal Democratic Party, which wants to revise the country’s pacifist Constitution, has called for an upgrade of the Izumo to use it as an aircraft carrier. The LDP referred to such an aircraft carrier as a “multipurpose mother ship” in its report compiled in May.
The Nikkei business newspaper reported that the government is preparing to order another 100 F-35 fighters from the U.S. to replace some of its aging F-15s, citing unnamed sources. Those F-35s would include both F-35As and F-35Bs, the Nikkei reported.
Currently, the Air-Self Defense Forces plans to procure 42 F-35As by fiscal 2024.
Japan is searching for a response to China’s building of two aircraft carriers back-to-back and plans to base locally-made fourth generation jets and fifth generation stealth fighters on them.