Lockheed Martin has launched the first F-35A Lightning II multirole fighter for the Japan Air Self Defense Force (JASDF).
Japan will purchase 42 F-35A conventional take off and landing (CTOL) through the US government’s foreign military sales programme.
Japan State Minister of Defense Kenji Wakamiya said: “With its low-observability and network capability, the F-35 is the most advanced air system with cutting-edge capability as a multi-role fighter.
“As the security environment surrounding Japan has become increasingly severe, because of its excellence, it is very significant for the defence of Japan to commit to acquiring the F-35 year by year.
“Given that the United States Government has designated Japan as a regional depot in the Asia-Pacific area, introduction of F-35A to Japan is a perfect example, enhancing the Japan-US alliance.”
The first four Lockheed Martin-built aircraft were produced in Fort Worth and the remaining 38 aircraft will be built at the Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Final Assembly and Check-Out facility in Nagoya, Japan, where aircraft assembly is underway.
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Additionally, first JASDF F-35A technicians are undergoing maintenance training at Eglin Air Force Base (AFB) in Florida and training of the first JASDF F-35A will begin at Luke AFB, Arizona, in November this year.
Lockheed Martin chairman, president and CEO Marillyn Hewson said: “The security alliance between Japan and the US has been a cornerstone of peace and prosperity in the Asia-Pacific region for generations, and we are proud to continue that legacy of cooperation with the rollout of the first F-35A to the Japan Ministry of Defense and the JASDF today.”
In August this year, the JASDF's first F-35A Lightning II successfully completed its maiden flight.
The aircraft was piloted by Lockheed Martin’s F-35 test pilot Paul Hattendorf.
To date, more than 200 F-35s have flown around 70,000 flight hours.
Image: Japan’s State Minister of Defense Kenji Wakamiya. Photo: courtesy of Beth Steel.