The government is aiming to enhance its capability for the defense of remote islands and continuous combat operations during contingencies, by introducing state-of-the art F-35B stealth fighter jets.
The Air Self-Defense Force’s main fighter aircraft, such as the F-15 and the F-35A, are said to require a runway at least hundreds of meters long for takeoff. The F-35B, however, only needs an airstrip measuring a hundred and some meters.
The United States has already introduced the F-35B, and is planning to operate the fighter jet from an amphibious assault ship while Britain intends to use it from an aircraft carrier. Both countries are assuming that the fighter will be employed in frontline operations.
Tokyo has refrained from possessing the F-35B in deference to the nation’s exclusively defensive security policy, as the fighter jet would enable it to operate in regions far away from its own territory.
However, China is pursuing rapid military expansion. In recent years, H-6 strategic bombers of the Chinese military have flown over an area near Okinawa Prefecture, the Tsushima Strait and in skies off the Kii Peninsula, and its fighter jets have become more sophisticated.
A situation could arise in which North Korea might target the runways of the ASDF and the U.S. forces stationed in Japan in the event of a contingency on the Korean Peninsula. With this state of affairs in mind, Tokyo has decided to shift gears toward the introduction of the F-35B.
The security environment surrounding Japan is increasingly volatile. It is hoped that the government will take into account the importance of preparing its defense capabilities in the National Defense Program Guidelines at the end of this year, in a manner that will sufficiently meet the defense needs of the country.