Japan has been cleared by the US State Department to buy 105 Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II stealth fighters as part of a package worth an estimated $23.11 billion.
The approved package includes 63 F-35A conventional takeoff and landing aircraft and 42 F-35 short takeoff and landing variants, essentially green-lighting the procurement plans spelled out by Japan in 2018.
The potential F-35 deal is the second-largest foreign military sale approved by Washington in history, behind a $29.4 billion sale of Boeing F-15SA fighters and associated weapons to Saudi Arabia in 2010.
The fighters will come with an electronic warfare and command system; control, communications, computers and intelligence, navigation and identification system; the F-35 Autonomic Logistics Global Support System; the F-35 Autonomic Logistics Information System; a flight mission trainer; and F-35 unique infrared flares, among other undisclosed subsystems and features.
Also, part of the sale are 110 Pratt and Whitney F135 engines, including five spare turbines.
“This proposed sale will support the foreign policy goals and national security objectives of the United States by improving the security of a major ally that is a force for political stability and economic progress in the Asia-Pacific region,” says the US Defense Security Cooperation Agency. ”It is vital to U.S. national interest to assist Japan in developing and maintaining a strong and effective self-defence capability.”
Japan is ordering F-35Bs to populate its two aircraft carriers of the Izumo-class. Originally built as helicopter carriers, the Izumo and Kaga are to be retrofitted with reinforced and heat-resistant decks to handle the fixed-wing aircraft.
Though Japan has a Final Assembly and Check-Out facility for the F-35, aircraft from this prospective order are to be built in Fort Worth, Texas. There are no known offset agreements as part of the deal, says the US Defense Security Cooperation Agency.
If Japan moves forward with the purchase, it would have a total of 147 F-35s — becoming the second-largest operator of the joint strike fighter after the United States and just ahead of the United Kingdom, which plans to buy 138 jets. It would also become the fourth user of the F-35B variant, which is being bought by U.S. Marine Corps, the United Kingdom’s Royal Air Force and the Italian Navy.