The Japan Air Self-Defense Force (JASDF) deployed a first F-35A fighter to Misawa Air Base on January 26. The JASDF plans to field nine more aircraft at the north-eastern base by the end of March next year, to form its first Lightning II squadron. The fighter, 89-8706 (15-5159, AX-06), is the second of 38 that will be assembled at the Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Komaki South F-35 Final Assembly and Check Out (FACO) in Nagoya. The remaining four aircraft (AX-01 to AX-04) have been completed in the United States.
“The F-35A will bring transformation in air defence power and significantly contribute to the peace for citizens and ensure security,” said JASDF Maj Gen Kenichi Samejima, the 3 Kokudan (3rd Wing) commander. “All service members will do their best to secure flight safety and promptly establish an operational [squadron] structure step-by-step.”
“This aircraft represents not only a big step forward in technological advancements and combat capabilities but also in US-Japan relations,” said Col R Scott Jobe, the commander of the US Air Force 35th Fighter Wing that is hosted at Misawa AB. “We look forward to training alongside our JASDF counterparts and continuing to enhance the safety and security of Japan together.”
The first Japanese-made F-35A, 79-8705 (AX-05), was delivered to Misawa AB on November 2 last year. The jet was flown from the the Komaki South FACO facility by Maj Elijah Supper, a US Air Force pilot assigned to the Defense Contract Management Agency. Although the aircraft is owned by the JASDF, it is required to undergo final function tests in the United States. The tests are necessary to ensure all future F-35As produced in Japan meet design and performance specifications. The jet underwent safety checks at Misawa before crossing the Pacific Ocean. It was escorted by F-16Cs from the Wisconsin Air National Guard’s 176th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron, which were returning from a deployment to Korea.
The first F-35A for the JASDF, 69-8701 (AX-1), was delivered to Luke Air Force Base, Arizona on November 28, 2016 from the factory in Fort Worth, Texas.
The JASDF F-35As will be armed with the Kongsberg Joint Strike Missile, for which the government has included funds for purchase in the fiscal 2018 budget.