Japan is arranging to deploy four F-35A advanced stealth fighter jets by 2025 at the earliest to an Air Self-Defense Force base on the Sea of Japan coast, in a bid to boost the country’s defense capabilities against airspace incursions by China and Russia. The Ministry of Defense (Bōei-shō) plans to eventually deploy around 20 F-35As to Komatsu Air Base in Ishikawa Prefecture. The Komatsu base is home to the sole fighter unit along the Sea of Japan, with the sea separating it from countries such as China and Russia. Some 40 F-15 fighter jets are stationed at the base.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato said at a news conference that bases where fighter units are stationed are mainly being considered for F-35A deployment, and the Komatsu base is a “potential candidate site.” The government will notify the Ishikawa Prefectural Government and the city of Komatsu. The Japan Air Self-Defense Force Komatsu Base (Komatsu Kichi) shares the runway with civil aviation; the inland-side taxiway is used by the JASDF and the sea-side one is used by civilian flights.
The first Japanese F-35s will replace aging F-4 Phantom fighters that date back to 1960s. The next batch will allow Japan to retire some of the aging 200 F-15s flown by the Japan Air Self-Defense Force (JASDF, Kōkū Jieitai) that are the main interceptor workhorse of the nation’s air defenses. Japan has already decided to acquire a total of 105 F-35As, with the aim of making the aircraft one of its mainstay fighter jets. The first of the 42 F-35As ordered by Japan’s Air Self Defence Force (ASDF) are being deployed to Misawa Air Base in northern Japan.
As China fields ever more advanced aircraft, including stealth planes, and as North Korea pushes ahead with its nuclear weapon and ballistic missile programs, adding F-35s will further increase Japan’s reliance on U.S. military technology to give it an edge over potential foes in East Asia. Japanese military planners are also considering buying F-35Bs, the vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) version of the aircraft. The JASDF has an established program of record of 147 F-35 Aircraft, consisting of 105 F-35 A models and up to 42 F-35 B models.