Japan’s Ministry of Defense has officially selected the F-35B Lightning II stealth fighter jet for its short take-off and vertical landing (STOVL) aircraft requirement.
The ministry is planning to upgrade the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force’s (JMSDF) Izumo-class helicopter destroyers to fully fledged aircraft carriers to accommodate the F-35B STOVL jets. The two 19,500-tonne Izumo-class carriers, JS Izumo (DDH-183) and JS Kaga (DDH-184), are Japan’s largest postwar naval vessels. They are 248 metres (818 feet) long and currently carry up to 14 helicopters.
Japan selected the F-35A conventional takeoff and landing (CTOL) variant as the next generation fighter of choice for the Japan Air Self-Defense Force (JASDF) in December 2011, following the F-X competitive bid process. The country initially ordered 42 F-35As. In December 2018, the Ministry of Defense announced its decision to increase its procurement of F-35s from 42 to 147 and stated the aircraft will be a mix of 105 F-35As and 42 STOVLS.
Japan is one of four current U.S. Foreign Military Sales F-35 customers to date, including Israel, the Republic of Korea and Belgium.