Japan Plans to Purchase More F-35s for The Defense of Diaoyutai

Facing the expanding Chinese air power over the East China Sea, the Japanese defense ministry plans to purchase a total number of 42 Lockheed Martin F-35 fighters from the United States to defend the disputed Diaoyutai islands (called Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China), according to the Tokyo-based business daily Nikkei.

The Japan Air Self-Defense Force (JASDF) decided to purchase the fifth generation stealth fighters to replace its older F-4 Phantom II fighters. In addition to 60 F-4 fighters, the JASDF also operates 200 F-15J and 90 F-2 fighters, the paper said.

The new F-35 fighters are likely to coordinate with F-2s in potential missions to attack the naval and ground forces of the People's Liberation Army, while the F-15J would take care of the Chinese fighters in the sky.

The Japanese defense ministry is also considering upgrading the F-15J fighters under its Mid-term Defense Program. Around 100 of the aircraft's radar systems are not able to be modified, and Tokyo plans to purchase additional F-35s to replace them. This will eventually allow Japan to have at least 142 F-35 stealth fighters. However, the defense ministry will first have to discuss its plans with the finance ministry as the price of a single F-35 can be as high as US$150 million.

Under the new Mid-term Defense Program, the Japanese defense ministry also discussed the possibility of designing or purchasing fighters which can be used to succeed F-2 multirole fighters. The Nikkei reported that Japan is likely to design this new fighter with other nation in a similar way to the United States and its F-35. Meanwhile, the Tokyo-based Kyodo News said that Japan will begin the purchase of its first six F-35 fighters from the United States as early as this March.
For the next five years, Japan will continue its purchase of F-35s and eventually increase the number to 42. In addition to introducing advanced fighters from the United States, the Japanese defense ministry also confirmed that it will spend US$190,000 to modify its three Osumi-class tank landing ships. After the modification, assault amphibious vehicles such as the AAV7 and new aircraft like MV-22 Osprey tiltrotor aircraft can both be launched from those ships for amphibious warfare over the disputed islands in the East China Sea.

"We can never overlook China's repeated entries into our territorial waters. In addition to diplomatic efforts, we will cooperate with the Coast Guard to securely defend our territory and waters around the Senkaku islands," said Itsunori Onodera, the Japanese defense minister, during his inspection of the new year exercise held by the airbourne troops of the Japan Grond Self-Defense Force at Narashino in Chiba prefecture on Jan. 12. [via]

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