Sunday’s Mainichi claimed that the Defense Ministry is looking into procuring dozens of additional F-35s so as to deflect U.S. pressure to correct the bilateral trade imbalance. Noting that the GOJ has already committed to buying a total of 42 F-35As for the ASDF to replace the aging F-4s, the paper said the ministry is now hoping to purchase more F-35s to replace the F-15s. Some of the additional stealth fighters will probably be the F-35B, the Marine variant of the F-35, so that they can be operated on the amphibious assault ships that the MSDF plans to procure for remote island defense.
In a related story, Monday’s Nikkei wrote that the GOJ is mulling the idea of procuring an airborne electronic attack (AEA) platform to disrupt and neutralize enemy-operated telecommunication networks and radar facilities, saying that the Boeing EA-18 is a primary candidate. Noting that the GOJ may choose to include the procurement of an AEA platform in the Medium-Term Defense Program when it is updated a year from now, the article said the Defense Ministry is aiming to purchase several such aircraft. The daily wrote in a separate piece that the proposed procurement of an AEA platform is the latest example of Japan’s desire to possess defense hardware that can be potentially used for “offensive purposes,” along with F-35Bs, cruise missiles, and the proposed conversion of the MSDF Izumo into an aircraft carrier. The paper expressed concern about the nation’s exclusively defense-oriented policy being undermined as a result.