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Japan cleared to purchase 105 F-35 jets in $23.1bn spending spree

written by Sandy Milne | July 10, 2020

F-35 crosses Mount Fuji (Japan Self-Defense Forces)

The US State Department has green lit the sale of 105 Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II jets to Japan, making for the second-largest deal ever approved by the foreign military sales committee.

The US Defense Security Cooperation Agency told Congress on 9 July that the Japanese government had requested 63 of the F-35A conventional take-off and landing (CTOL) variant as well as 42 of the F-35B short take-off and vertical landing (STVOL) variant. Even with per-unit costs associated with the F-35 at a historic low, the final sale price cited by FMS clocked in at $23.1 billion.

“This proposed sale will support the foreign policy goals and national security objectives of the United States by improving the security of a major ally that is a force for political stability and economic progress in the Asia-Pacific region,” said the US Defense Security Cooperation Agency in a statement.

“It is vital to US national interest to assist Japan in developing and maintaining a strong and effective self-defence capability.”

The deal would make the Japanese SDF the fourth service to employ the F-35B variant, which is also used by the US Marine Corps, the UK’s Royal Air Force and the Italian Navy. The SDF currently operates two Izumo Class aircraft carrier, which could be retrofitted to carry and operate the F-35B.

The news comes as Japan looks to bolster the national Self-Defense Force with a suite of upgraded weapons and technology. Earlier this week, Japan also unveiled a timeline for the development of an indigenously produced fighter jet, slated to enter production in early 2031.

Ministry of Defense officials told members of the Japanese Diet that the sixth-gen fighter, known as the F-X, would replace the country’s ageing fleet of 100 F-2 jets. More than US$260 million has been earmarked for the jet fighter, which is also designed to be fully interoperable with the F-35.


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