Tokyo is reportedly considering the acquisition of an additional 100 Lockheed Martin F-35 fighters, adding to the 42 F-35As already planned.
According to an unsourced report in Japan’s Nikkei newspaper, Tokyo would spread the acquisition between the conventional takeoff and landing F-35A variant and the short take off vertical landing F-35B.
When asked about the potential 100 aircraft acquisition, Lockheed Martin said: “Japan is a critical customer and their current program of record is for 42 F-35A aircraft. While we have not been officially notified of an increased order, as always, we will support our US and Japanese government customers to ensure they can meet their current and future defense need
The Nikkei report said that some of the F-35As would replace Tokyo’s older Boeing F-15 fighters. It added that Japanese helicopter carrier ships will be modified to accommodate F-35Bs.
At the Japan Aerospace show, Lockheed displayed models of both the F-35A and F-35B on its stand. In addition, it brought a full-sized mockup of the F-35A.
Joel Malone, senior manager, Japan for F-35 business development said that the existing acquisition of F-35As is going well. He had high marks for Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, which is producing the fighter in Nagoya.
He notes that the initial aircraft produced by Mitsubishi were to a very high standard. The first aircraft produced by Mitsubishi, AX-5, was sent to the USA for tests. It is now in service at the F-35 training school at Luke AFB, Arizona.
So far, 10 examples have been delivered to the Japan Air Self Defense Force (JASDF), of which six have been produced at MHI’s Nagoya final assembly line.
Malone says the JASDF is expected to have 18 qualified F-35 pilots by February, and 180 maintainers. Also, six F-35 simulators will be in Japan by the first quarter 2019, allowing for the local training of pilots.