MELBOURNE, Australia — Japan has deployed the Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter to a Japanese base for the first time, with the arrival of an aircraft to an air base in the northern part of the country late last week.
The aircraft touched down at Misawa in Japan’s Aomori Prefecture on Friday, where it was welcomed in an arrival ceremony by representatives of the Japan Air Self-Defense Force. This is the first of 10 JASDF F-35As slated to arrive in Misawa over the upcoming Japanese fiscal year.
Speaking at the ceremony, the commander of the JASDF’s 3rd Air Wing, Maj. Gen. Kenichi Samejima, said “the F-35A will bring transformation in air defense power and significantly contribute to the peace for citizens and ensure security.”
Misawa is also home to the U.S. Air Force’s 35th Fighter Wing, which flies the F-16 Fighting Falcon multirole fighter. The commander of the wing, Col. R. Scott Jobe, said the F-35A “represents not only a big step forward in technological advancements and combat capabilities but also in U.S.-Japan relations,” adding that his unit looked forward to “training alongside our JASDF counterparts and continuing to enhance the safety and security of Japan together.”
Japan’s first F-35As will be operated by the JASDF’s 302nd Squadron, which is currently operating the McDonnell-Douglas F-4EJ Phantom II at Hyakuri Air Base in Ibaraki Prefecture, north of Japan’s capital Tokyo. The unit will eventually move north to Misawa to operate the F-35.
Japan has ordered 42 F-35As, with the first four assembled at Lockheed Martin’s Fort Worth, Texas, facility and the remaining 38 aircraft assembled at Mitsubishi Heavy Industries’ final assembly and checkout, or FACO, facility in Nagoya, Japan. The first F-35A rolled out of the FACO facility in June 2017, which has also been selected to be the facility for the F-35’s North Asia-Pacific region‘s heavy airframe maintenance, repair, overhaul and upgrade.
In addition to final assembly, Japanese industry is also involved in the manufacture of parts used in Japan’s F-35s.
However, it has been reported that Japanese-made parts that were to be included in the fighters have not actually been used so far, with IHI Corporation unable to get quality approval for an engine parts prototype due to delayed supplies of materials from a contractor in the U.S., while Mitsubishi Electric had other issues with subcontractors.
The Japanese government’s board of audit had said that checks by the Acquisition, Technology and Logistics Agency showed that the Japanese subcontractors’ manufacturing processes were insufficient, and the board urged the agency to coordinate with the U.S. government to ensure that items required for F-35 production be supplied on schedule.
Mike Yeo is the Asia correspondent for Defense News.