Local media in Japan has reported that the main governing Liberal Democratic Party plans to propose introducing F-35B fighter jets and a multi-purpose aircraft carrier.
Yesterday, the LDP panel on national security compiled a set of proposals to be considered. The panel stressed the need to enhance Japan’s defence capabilities both in quality and quantity.
The panel wants the Japanese Defense Ministry to acquire F-35B stealth jets, which can take off from short runways. The panel will also reportedly call for procuring a multi-purpose aircraft carrier “that can also serve as a hospital ship”. Retrofitting of the Maritime Self-Defense Force’s destroyer Izumo is to be listed as an option.
As we reported recently, before this March 20th confirmation, conversion of the existing Izumu class helicopter carriers was rumoured as an option for the F-35Bs Japan wants to purchase.
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”.
An official proposal will be released in late May.