Japan closer to operating carriers; $ 23.11 Bn deal, for F35 jets

42 of these jets, will be the F35B  for carriers

IDD Bureau

Japan has moved a step closer to operating an aircraft carrier of its own, ending almost a 70 years self-imposed restraint. The US has okayed the sale of 42 of the F-35B Short Take-Off and Vertical Landing (STOVL) aircraft produced by Lockheed Martin, under a $ 23.11 Billion deal that includes another 63 conventional F35 jets.

Last year, in 2019, Japan announced its plans to have fighter jets on its existing ‘flat-decks’, the Izumo class helicopter carriers. The ships are being modified for the same. In the past 12 months, the Indo-Pacific has seen interesting developments on ‘carriers’. Japan and China have literally ‘changed gears’ to accelerate the ‘Asian aircraft carrier race’. India and Korea are the other two Asian countries which are seen part of this ‘race’ and have carriers, or are making one.

For the Asian countries — China, India, Japan and South Korea  — these warships are like floating cities, a projection of prowess in controlling and dominating the sea lanes of communication – trade routes on high seas — vital to run their multi-billion dollar economies. Read it here about the carrier race in an IDD perspective paper.

Japan gets the nod

In a boost for Japan, the Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) of US delivered the required certification notifying US Congress of this possible sale on July 9.

“The State Department has made a determination approving a possible Foreign Military Sale to the Government of Japan”


In all Japan is getting 105 F-35 Joint Strike Fighter aircraft and related equipment for an estimated cost of $23.11 billion. Of these Government of Japan requested to buy 63 of the  F-35A Conventional Take-Off and Landing (CTOL) aircraft and 42 of the F-35B STOVL aircraft.

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-defense capability. The Japan Air Self-Defense Force’s F-4 aircraft are being decommissioned as F-35s are added to the inventory. Japan will have no difficulty absorbing these aircraft into its armed forces.Read full detail here

Meets foreign policy goals of the US

This proposed sale will support the foreign policy goals and national security objectives of the United States, says the DSCA. It will improve the security of a major ally of the US that 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-defense capability”, says the DSCA.

The proposed sale of this equipment and support will not alter the basic military balance in the region.

Engines and latest  systems

The Japanese will be getting 110 Pratt and Whitney F135 engines includes 5 spares. Also included in the deal are 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; reprogramming center access and F-35 Performance Based Logistics; software  development/integration; flight test instrumentation; aircraft ferry and tanker support; spare and repair parts; support equipment, tools and test equipment; technical data and publications; personnel training and training equipment.

U.S. Government and contractor engineering, technical, and logistics support services; and other related elements of logistics support will also be part of it. The prime contractors will be Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Company, Fort Worth, Texas; and Pratt and Whitney Military Engines, East Hartford, Connecticut.

Representatives of Lockheed Martin and Pratt and Whitney will be required in Japan to conduct contractor engineering technical services (CETS) and autonomic logistics and global support (ALGS) for after-aircraft delivery.

The change by Japan

Japanese, who have just emerged from their self-imposed ban on owning aircraft carriers. Following the end of second world war ( 1939—1945) and defeat of the Imperial Japan Navy, the Japanese Constitution  in 1945 banned making aircraft carriers.

For the first time since World War –II  (1939-1945), Japan is set to convert two of its ‘flat-deck’ warships to allow the F-35B STOVL aircraft of Lockheed Martin to take off from the deck.


In August 2019, Japan made the request to the US to get the F-35B jets for the two such flat decks of the ‘Izumo’ and ‘Kaga’. Read it here

The procurement plan comes amid China’s military buildup. The Medium Term Defense Program (FY 2019 – FY 2023) of Japan released on December, 2018 talks about ‘National Defense Program Guidelines for FY 2019 and beyond’ and announces “Japan will significantly strengthen defense capability to build a truly effective defense capability and  multi -domain defense force”. Read full report here

The 20,000  tonne ‘flat decks’ of the ‘Izumo  class’ are the largest Japanese warships since the world war. With a 248 metre length, it looks like an aircraft carrier. 

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