The Japanese F-35 programme recorded a milestone yesterday when the first locally assembled F-35A, AX-5, was unveiled at the F-35 Final Assembly and Check Out (FACO) facility in Nagoya.
The Japanese FACO is operated by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) at Komaki South. F-35As are being assembled here by MHI with technical assistance from Lockheed Martin.
Around 200 people attended the ceremony including Japanese and United States government and defense industry leaders.
“Seeing the first Japanese built F-35A is a testament to the global nature of this program”, said Vice Admiral Mat Winter, F-35 Program Executive Officer. “This state-of-the-art assembly facility, staffed with a talented and motivated workforce, enables us to leverage industry’s unique talents and technological know-how to produce the world’s best multi-role fighter. The F-35 will enhance the strength of our security alliances and reinforce long-established bonds with our allies through training opportunities, exercises, and military-to-military events.”
The Japan Ministry of Defense competitively selected the F-35A as the Japan Air Self-Defense Force’s (JASDF’s) next-generation air defence fighter in December 2011, with a Foreign Military Sales program of record of 42 F-35As. The first four JASDF F-35As (AX-1 to AX-4) were previously delivered from the Fort Worth, Texas production facility. Subsequent deliveries of 38 F-35A aircraft will come from the FACO here in Japan.
The US Department of Defense has also selected the Nagoya FACO for the North Asia-Pacific regional heavy airframe Maintenance Repair Overhaul & and Upgrade (MROU) facility.
In related news, the first two Japanese pilots graduated from the F-35 programme at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona on May 20. These pilots will be instrumental in establishing Japan’s first operational F-35A squadron. A ceremony to mark the event was held by the resident 944th Fighter Wing and the 414th Fighter Group from Seymour Johnson AFB, North Carolina.
The 944th Operations Group, Detachment 2 (tasked with the training of the Japanese pilots) is expecting to receive its first South Korean pilots within a year.