Jan 26, 2018
AOMORI, Japan - Japan on Friday deployed its first F-35A stealth fighter at Misawa Air Base in the northeastern prefecture of Aomori to respond to airspace incursions and engage in surveillance activity on North Korea.
The Air Self-Defense Force plans to deploy nine more F-35As at the base in the next fiscal year from April to form a squadron of 10 fighter jets.
Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera told reporters, "The deployment of the high-performance F-35 aircraft is significant for Japan's security at a time when neighboring countries have been quickly building up their air force capabilities in recent years."
The ASDF aims to eventually acquire a total of 42 F-35A planes, which are known for their ability to evade detection by radar. Manufactured by Lockheed Martin Corp., the 15.6-meter-long, 10.7-meter-wide F-35A jet is the successor to the aging F-4 fighter.
For the next fiscal year, the government has earmarked expenses for purchasing long-range JSM missiles capable of attacking enemy bases to be mounted on the F-35A jet.
Onodera added, "The introduction of the missiles is not aimed at targeting enemy military bases. We rely on U.S. strike capabilities for attacking enemy bases and this will remain unchanged."
The first deployed F-35A aircraft was assembled and inspected at a Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. plant in Aichi Prefecture in central Japan before flying to the Misawa base.
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