Japan has ordered an initial batch of four Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighters. The Japan Air Self-Defense Force (JASDF) hopes to buy a total of 42 of the stealthy fifth-generation fighters to replace its geriatric fleet of McDonnell Douglas F-4J Kai Phantoms.
"Lockheed Martin is honored that Japan's Ministry of Defense and the United States Government have signed a Letter of Offer and Acceptance (LOA) for the first four of 42 F-35A Lightning II 5th Generation multirole fighters," Lockheed says.
Japan selected the F-35 to replace the Phantoms last December from a field including the Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet and the Eurofighter Typhoon. At the time, analysts had said that the Japan would ultimately choose between the JSF and the Hornet. The Typhoon was considered an extreme dark horse.
More than simply replacing the Phantom, the F-X contest was seen as a pathway to eventually replacing the Japanese fleet of Boeing F-15 Eagles.
In recent months, Japan has said it would leave the F-35 programme if Lockheed could not deliver the aircraft on time and on budget. This latest move might be seen as a vote of confidence from Japan.
"We are confident that the F-35 will deliver cost-effective capability for Japan's defense now and well into the future," Lockheed says. "Lockheed Martin is committed to an enduring partnership with Japanese industry to deliver the F-35."