F-35: Coming to Japan

F-35: Coming to Japan (Source: Global Military)

Following yesterday’s early Christmas present comes the present from the aunt who always sends you aftershave: the F-35 has been selected as the replacement for Japan’s F-4 Phantoms – as fully expected and with a twang of disappointment from some quarters.

The reason for the disappointment? Time – with the F-X contest originally designed to bring 50 fighters into service by 2016, it seems all but impossible that there will be enough jets available for Japan to fill this need. The recent announcement states that Japan will instead by 42 fighters  Time is a key issue too as the Air Self-Defense Force plans to retire its aging Phantoms by 2013. This glaring weakness has made the selection decision rather contentious among defense watchers, although the Ministry of Defense has apparently made its decision under the reckoning that, in the words of the Asahi Japan Watch, the “obstacles were not serious and that the first delivery will be on time.”

However, given the nexus between technology transfer (although the F-35 has perhaps the weakest offering of the contenders), low-radar observability, maneuverability, US-Japanese defense relations and the ASDF’s disappointment over the US banning the export of the F-22 Raptor, this decision has been predicted many times over here at JSW and elsewhere.

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A former contributor to World Intelligence (Japan Military Review), James Simpson joined Japan Security Watch in 2011, migrating with his blog Defending Japan. He has a Masters in Security Studies from Aberystwyth University and is currently living in Kawasaki, Japan. His primary interests include the so-called 'normalization' of Japanese security (i.e. militarization), and the political impact of the abduction issue with North Korea.
James Simpson has 254 post(s) on Japan Security Watch