Japan is officially drawing up plans to acquire the F-35B, according to local media.
The Yomiuri Shimbun, a Japanese newspaper, said that Shinzo Abe’s administration “is planning to indicate the number of [F-35B] aircraft to be procured in the next Medium Term Defense Program, which is to be compiled at the end of this year.”
The story went on to report that the Abe government is “mulling including related expenses in the fiscal 2019 budget plan, with a view to starting the delivery of F-35Bs from around fiscal 2024.”
The article also notes the F-35B would be the perfect aircraft if Japan wanted to operate fixed-wing aircraft from its Izumo class helicopter destroyers, an idea that Tokyo was considering late last year.
The 248-metre long Izumo, Japan’s largest warship equipped with a flat flight deck, was designed with an eye to hosting F-35B fighters. Its elevator connecting the deck with the hangar can carry the aircraft.
Multiple plans are reportedly under consideration, some of which call for US Marine Corps F-35s to use the vessels, but others for Japan to procure its own aircraft. These plans quickly raised criticism from China, where government officials reacted negatively and urged Japan to “act cautiously”.