In what appears to be the largest F-35 order outside of the United States, Japan plans to buy 147 of the sixth generation stealth fighters in the next decade.
The new planes will include 42 F-35Bs and will include 18 short take-off and vertical landing (STOVL) B cariants of the F-35 that Tokyo wants to deploy on Japanese islands along the edge of East China Sea, Lockheed Martin said in a statement Tuesday.
The islands are part of a chain stretching past Taiwan and down to the Philippines that has marked the limit of Chinese military dominance east of the disputed South China Sea.
According to the guidelines approved by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s committee, two of Japan’s helicopter carrier will be refitted into aircraft carriers that can deploy F-35 fighters capable of short take-off and vertical landings, ABC.net reported Tuesday.
The guidelines would replace the current defense plan midway through its intended lifespan. The work on the Izumo helicopter carrier will be done over five years and the ship would carry 10 stealth fighters, while the refitting of the second helicopter carrier into aircraft carrier would follow.
“Japan needs better deterrence and increased missile defence and fighter capability as North Korea's missile and nuclear threats remains unchanged in the absence of concrete steps to dismantle them, and China's maritime activity has grown increasingly assertive,” the news daily reported.