Japan Buying F-35 Joint Strike Fighters

F-35s in Flight

So, the F-35 Join Strike Fighter got a major shot in the arm last night when Japan chose the JSF to its next fighter jet.

Tokyo decided to buy four F-35A conventional model JSFs next year to kick start its effort to replace two squadrons of ancient F-4 Phantoms. Last night’s news validates reports that emerged last week claiming the JSF was guaranteed a win in the Japan’s F-X fighter contest that pitted the Lockheed Martin-made jet against Boeing’s cheaper F/A-18E Super Hornet and the Eurofighter Typhoon (the Eurofighter probably never had much of a shot given Japan’ super close ties to the U.S. military).

As we’ve said before, it makes a lot of sense for Japan to buy the F-35. The island nation has long wanted a stealth jet to modernize its air force with. After the U.S. denied Japan access to the F-22 Raptor, Tokyo looked at America’s export friendly stealth jet and obviously liked what it saw. As we’ve said before, Japan is increasingly concerned about the rapid growth of China’s military and buying the F-35 gives Japan the same fighter that will serve as the backbone of it’s biggest ally’s (the U.S.) 21st Century tacair fleet. One big question is, how quickly will the Japanese Ar Self Defense Force be equipped with combat-ready JSFs?

Japan’s F-4s are supposed to be retired very soon and those four F-35As will likely be training jets. The Pentagon has already pushed back its initial operational capability dates for the JSF to the end of this decade, and those dates may be pushed further back still. Will Japan continue t fly F-4s and aging F-15 Eagles until the 2020s? Check out sister site DoDBuzz for answers to these questions later today.

  • Erick

    arigatou gozamaista!

  • Mastro

    Well I guess a few billion yen will help the program- they just have to make sure it can actually do what its supposed to.

  • Ben

    It still rubs me the wrong way that it takes a whole 10 years after the damn plane is up and flying before it’s combat ready. If it’s the technology and coding that we’re waiting on, maybe we went a little too far.

    Cutting edge fighters only have bite if you can use them now while they’re still cutting edge.

    • Jeff m

      It was only a prototype, the hardest part is building an assembly line to make thousands. the process to make 1 or 5 or 10 is is much different than the process to make thousands.

    • Mark

      Remember they are concurrently developing and building them. So the begining combat planes will need some (however much) rework once development is complete for the first block.

  • napdangdoa

    Jack of all trades masters of none

  • Black Owl

    I’m wondering if this will go as planned or turn into another Australia case: They plan on getting the F-35, then unpredicted delays and cost increases make them buy the Super Hornet.

    • Tim

      I doubt it. The F-35 now is much further down the road to completion than when Australia decided to go with the F-18E/F.

      • Black Owl

        It’s also a lot more expensive and problimatic than when Australia decided to go with the F/A-18E/F.

  • A clear vote of confidence for the F35 programme. It could reassure a few wobbly potential customers and possibly create a little wider interest.

    For the positive signal it sends out, I wonder how much the US would be prepared to pay -through a DoS or USAID financial package- to win such a deal.

    • Christiaan

      Buying a Problem Plane is not that inviting to boost up general interest of allies…. All the negatieve signals lately have more impact than this intended buy from Japan. The F35 would serve it’s own selling potential a whole lot better if the rocketing pricetag and unforeseen technical problems are put on direct hold! Otherwise the unavailability of this plane becomes a usp for the proven and available alternatives as Super Hornet and even the Typhoon!

    • joe

      A more relevant question is if they are expecting any of the manufacturing work to be done in country – and if so, what.

  • Tony C

    This will probably keep the F-35 from cancellation!!!
    This will probably make the F-35 program immune from
    any further Congressional attacks as well.
    The F-35 will be the next generation manned fighter for NATO
    and our allies to replace the F-16.

  • StrumPanzer

    With all the delays and cost overruns. It should learn something that has been taught over and over again. Never judge anything by looks alone. I’m wondering if Boeing would have had the same issues.

    • Tim

      Or it could be that the Japanese judged the F-35 by… looks alone -considering how much negative press it was getting? I think not. There maybe something that neither you or I and the rest of us know about the F-35 yet.

    • Mark

      Yes Boeing would have many of the same and many different problems. Remember the Boeing model could not go super sonic and land vertically in the same flight mission. What kind of problems would they have develping a variable inlet? As for another aspect of development the level of maturity of end design that they thought they could get from advanced design techniques has shown to still be in the “art” stage versus application stage. In other words the aircraft maker could do it.

      • Mark

        Could NOT do it. Sorry for error.

  • Lance

    @ DoD Buzz Japan will Fly some F-15s beyond 2020. upto at least 50 F-15Js will be upgraded to F-15J Kai and will be a new plane and fly for at least a few more decade’s. I don’t know why you have a bone against the Eagle its better than the junk China fly’s.

  • blight

    The Japanese probably wanted a deal insulating them from cost-overruns, and guaranteeing them a fixed price on delivery, in exchange for a guaranteed order from Lockmart, even if the United States killed its buy.

  • WJS

    …magazine and it’ll be all over

  • aodgnadpan

    If you let a suspicious rubber dingy with AK-47 within a 1000 yards of the ship, then you deserve to lose the ship anyway. By the time we managed to field enough number of LCS as a “formidable” force, the weapon system will be available as well (hopefully). Right now, there are just 2 with 2 more on the way.

  • Tim

    I guarantee the Eurofighter delivers better than the JSF in 2025. The jsf will go down as the worst military procurement project after the f22.

    All talk and no trousers , Lockheed couldn’t organize a piss up in a brewery !

    • Clive

      Ahahaha, you mean the Eurofighter that still doesn’t have an AESA radar a decade after it entered service. The same Eurofighter that has a patheticly limited A-G ability ands zero stealth factor.
      Better off with F-15’s than the £179 million quid a plane Eurofrauder.

      • Mastro

        A mediocre radar and no stealth means death by BVR

        It will also have trouble penetrating airspace covered by the newest Russian SAM’s.

        If stealth wasn’t important (according to the Europeans) why are the Russians, Chinese, Indians, Japanese and S Koreans developing it?

        The Typhoon is great for airshows and attacking places like Libya- but lets face it- its the equivalent of a preDreadnaught or a Matilda tank- obsolete before its time.

        • asdf

          the f-35 will also have problems getting into (or out) heavily defended areas. remember that has EXPORT stealth. you can also fit a NGJ or five of them to an EF.

          the f-22 wasn’t built for nothing you know, if the f-35 is a do-it-all type of AC. the same goes for its export prohibition (f.22).
          for a good reason.

          so f-35 will probably be somewhat better then the EF when clean, but not by a lot imo.

          • Clive

            “Export stealth” was one of Bill Sweetmans (many) lies about the F-35 program. There is no such thing.

        • SteveD

          The Typhoon will have AESA years before the F35 finishes development, let alone enters service.

          As for Stealth, its a concept that few really seem to understand. Every 5th generation fighter plane out there incorporates ‘stealth’ of some kind, as ‘stealth’ really just means ‘signature reduction technologies’. For the most part that will be shaping in the design of the airframe, but it can also incorporate RAM in specific places.

          What you’ve got to be careful of is this ‘oooh shiny!’ mentality that seems to trail the F35 programme about like so much drool. Heavy airframe shaping and RAM coatings are all well and good, but airframe shaping is proving less useful against modern radar designs, and RAM is bloody expensive to look after (particularly coatings).

          Threats are also constantly evolving, requiring periodic updates in your low-signature tech or suffer a reduction in your ‘stealth’ (particularly now the east has that US drone to play with).

          In short – the F35 aint all that.

          I still think the Typhoon was the best bet for Japan, as it is for India. The F35 may well start to deliver on its promise in another decade, and maybe 2025 Japan will start to get some fighters out of the programme.

          But the Typhoon ticks all the boxes for what Japan needs ‘right now’. They could be building them in 2013, have them operational by 2015 as their existing fighters are phased out. The Typhoon is a robust twin-engine design with proven combat experience, and with lots of industry integration options for the Japanese to build on in preparation for their domestic fighter programme (the US is notoriously neurotic about sharing its tech, despite how much it looses to Chinese hackers, while the euros would be more then happy to pimp out their industry).

          • Clive

            LOL! Is this the same AESA that has been, according to the Typhoon fanatics, “almost ready” for the last 10 years. ;)
            Nice excuses for the lack of typhoons stealth qualities and I do like the way you fail to mention that because of that inferior quality it is likely to be spotted and shot down at ranges far far beyond which could threaten the F-35.

            The bottom line is that Typhoon is an equivilent to a Tenn series fighter with very slightly better kinematics, in short it ain’t all that by todays standards. I should know I work around the thing for a living and get to hear all the detail. ( they get owned by Tenn fighters often enough in excerises btw dispite what the marketing guff from Euro fighter might tell you.)

            Why do you think the Uk government is getting F-35’s.

          • Clive

            “Tenn” should be Teen on both counts in the above post. Sorry.

          • SteveD

            UK is getting F-35’s because the Typhoon isn’t carrier capable (although there are those who say the UK should pull out of the troubled F35 programme as it would be cheaper to make the Typhoon carrier-capable then it would to buy the same number of F35’s).

            Not surprised someone who works around old american jets thinks they’re all that, but the idea that they compare to the Typhoon is just so much guff. American pilots who’ve flown both the F22 and the Typhoon have admitted the latter handles better.

            And I never said the Typhoon lacked stealth qualities; it plainly does have them.

  • Kski

    Im still concerned with the F-35 and its delivery date, but if it works for Japan good for them and future defense against the RED MENACE will be of great use.

  • John E. Osman III

    Should the Red menace exacerbate it’s defense programs, & become an aggressive irritant in becoming combative in it’s quest to rule the world, it will have to deal with the millions of it’s own people that would be willing to take arms up against it’s own government. We cannot allow the Red ness of it’s propaganda influence to be turned against the democratic tide of this nation’s prosperity. They were our Ally in WWII, & only turned to the Red Side of Communistic forces when denied the opportunity to have the right to take part in taking revenge on it’s then much more aggressive neighbor.
    Fault, or thank, the Good General & even greater Republican advocate, Douglas S MacArthur for being the one responsible for this active participation of inviting the leaders of our own steel, & manufacturing, industries, to Japan in the guise of hiring cheap labor, even cheaper than we could manufacture the same products, thus selling out our nation, & it’s labor force, as well as our troops stationed throughout the world that carry the burden of defending our rights, freedoms, & liberties, that we still have in today’s world of “globalization”. It is for the same reasons that we have a North, & South Korea.

    • blight

      “They were our Ally in WWII, & only turned to the Red Side of Communistic forces when denied the opportunity to have the right to take part in taking revenge on it’s then much more aggressive neighbor. ”

      They “turned to the Red Side” because the KMT lost the countryside. The communists didn’t lose as much strength against the IJA as the communists did, and the KMT spent a great deal of time hunting down the communists while simultaneously fighting Japan.

      Once the war ended, the PLA sprung its trap and turned on the warlords, who began bolting to save their own hides. From there, entire KMT units were defeated or defected, and once your own army begins to defect you have serious problems.

      “It is for the same reasons that we have a North, & South Korea.”

      We have a North and South Korea because Japan occupied Korea in the early 1900’s; and when the Soviets attacked Japan they got about halfway through Korea before being stopped by a treaty line.

  • NeverMindMe

    I just read Japan is buying F35 at 115mil per plane. Is LM raping the US taxpayer or what, or is the US taxpayer subsiding our cheap ass rich allies, so they buy this plane instead of the EU, or has LM and its army of lobbyists used it power to screw Boeing and the taxpayer?

    Or all of the above?

  • Clive

    Yet the European option, the Eurofighter costs more. That is why they didn’t pick it, and the fact that its already outdated with its totally unstealthy airframe and 80’s era electronics and avioncs.

  • SJE

    I can’t see how we can make sweeping statements about the F-35 program. The worlds third largest economy is buying FOUR. Not four squadrons. To replace F-4s, from which pretty much anything would be an improvement.

    • Mastro

      Four next year- to start the program off- they plan on 42 in total.

      Yes- they are replacing F4’s- and the Marines are replacing old Harriers and the Europeans 30 year old F16’s-

      • SJE

        STARTING with 4. If they don’t get what they think they bargained for, who is to say it will go to 42? This program has been full of promises of orders that dried up or were severly cut later on.

      • FtD

        if they’ll be delivered on time…… doubt that

        still japan is mainly concern with air defense rather than striking options so they’ll want a true air dominance fighter to replace their F15 in the future…..

  • mareo2

    The reason why the japanese government buy F-35 is because it please the US and somewhat compensate their incapacity to solve the relocation of the Futenma base in Okinawa. As many experts pointed out before, because the japanese constitution constrain the SDF’s rules of engagement and military doctrine to a defensive posture, Japan need an interceptor not a stealth bomber.

    • Mastro

      The Japanese buy US military equipment for various reasons- it helps ease the pain of the US-Japanese trade embargo, US troops are in Japan- no French or Brits, and US stuff is good- it also helps to have compatible gear to the US – we would inevitably fight together.

      • mareo2

        Excuse me, but what do you mean with “US-Japanese trade embargo”?

        No matter how good a plane is in a role of stealth bomber, still it its inferior to a dedicated interceptor.

        And if we are bound to fight together why the US dont’ sell to us F-22? “We fight togeter” or is more like “the US do the real job with the really good weapons”?


    The F-35 is a very capable aircraft as it has capabilities that previous generation fighter jets were only able to do with external pods; Lockheed should consider selling a F-35 minus all of the advanced avionics and sensor capabilities to lower cost like a strip-down car so the buyer can decide on what options to get or go for all options plan.

  • Tenn Slim

    Considering the last F22 has come off the LM production line, which now will close down the Marietta Ga plant, effectively, except for C130 continueing production, and the Dallas Fort Worht production facilities for F35 continue to be built, this Japan buy will help immensely, to keep the Engineering staff on site.
    Keeping Engineering staffers on past the EMD phase is always critical to further aircraft builds.
    Noted the LM folks are now into the Unmanned Helo business, A new endeavor.
    Semper Fi


    While it’s great that Japan has finally decided to buy the F-35, it’s further proof that the next President of the United States needs to withdraw from every treaty that has the US coming to the aid of some foreign country as why should the US need to buy over 2400 F-35 when Japan thinks they only need 42 and in another report has the total defense budget of NATO countries totaling $200Billion as this compares with the US 2012 Defense budget of over $600Billion; if these countries want to be under the US umbrella of protection, each country in NATO and Asia will need to cough up $75-100Billion.