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J C Menon

In one of the largest foreign military deals, the U.S has approved the sale of 105 F-35 aircraft and related equipment to Japan for an estimated cost of US$23.11 Bn. The US Defence Security Cooperation Agency delivered the required certification notifying Congress of this possible sale on 9th July, after Tokyo requested 63 F-35A Conventional Take-­Off and Landing (CTOL) aircraft, 42 F-35B Short Take-Off and Vertical Landing (STOVL) aircraft, along with 110 Pratt and Whitney F135 engines, which includes 5 spares.

Also included in the deal:

  • Electronic Warfare Systems
  • Command, Control, Communications, Computers and Intelligence/Communications, Navigation and Identification
  • Autonomic Logistics Global Support System
  • Autonomic Logistics Information System
  • Flight Mission Trainer
  • Weapons Employment Capability, and other Subsystems, Features, and Capabilities
  • F-35 unique infrared flares

Japan’s programme of record is for 147 aircraft after the Japanese Ministry of Defence announced its decision to increase its procurement of F-35s from 42 to 147 in December 2018, when they stated the aircraft will be a mix of 105 F-35As and 42 F-35Bs.

The prime contractors will be Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Company, and Pratt and Whitney Military Engines, but there are no known offset agreements proposed in connection with this potential sale. This is said to be the second largest foreign military sale approved by the US administration in its history, after the US$29.4bn sale of Boeing F-15SA fighters and associated weapons to Saudi Arabia in 2010.

Largest ever

This proposed sale will support the foreign policy goals and national security objectives of the U.S by improving the security of a major ally that is a force for political stability and economic progress in the Asia-Pacific region.  It is vital to U.S. national interest to assist Japan in developing and maintaining a strong and effective self-defence capability, a State Department official says.

The proposed sale of aircraft and support will augment Japan’s operational aircraft inventory and enhance its air-to-air and air-to-ground self-defence capability as the Japan Air Self-Defence Force’s (JASDF’s) F-4 aircraft are being decommissioned as F-35s are added to the inventory.

Game changing

The F-35 possesses 5th Generation capabilities that are not found on legacy 4th Generation fighters:

  • very low observable stealth coupled with full fighter performance
  • advanced sensors and sensor fusion
  • network-enabled operations
  • advanced sustainment.

These attributes enable the F-35 to operate and survive in high threat environments, which will provide Japan with strong conventional deterrence and promote stability in the region.

Japan will have no difficulty absorbing these aircraft into its armed forces, the official adds.

“The proposed sale of this equipment and support will not alter the basic military balance in the region,” he notes.

Implementation of this proposed sale will require multiple trips to Japan involving U.S. Government and contractor representatives for technical reviews/support, programme management, and training over a period of 25 years, the official adds.

US contractor representatives will be required in Japan to conduct Contractor Engineering Technical Services (CETS) and Autonomic Logistics and Global Support (ALGS) for after-aircraft delivery. Japan is one of five current U.S. Foreign Military Sales F-35 customers to date, including Israel, the Republic of Korea, Belgium and Poland. The Japanese Ministry of Defence selected the F-35 as the next generation fighter of choice for the JASDF in December 2011, following the F-X competitive bid process.