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An F-35A stealth fighter takes off for its new base in Misawa on Friday in Japan’s first deployment of the US-developed model. Photo: Kyodo

Japan deploys first F-35A stealth fighter, with mission to keep tabs on North Korea


Japan on Friday has deployed its first F-35A stealth fighter, sending it to Misawa Air Base in the northeastern prefecture of Aomori to respond to airspace incursions and engage in surveillance of North Korea.

The Air Self-Defence Force plans to deploy nine more F-35As at the base in the next financial year from April to form a squadron of 10 fighter jets.

Defence Minister Itsunori Onodera told reporters: “The deployment of the high-performance F-35 aircraft is significant for Japan’s security at a time when neighbouring countries have been quickly building up their air force capabilities in recent years.”

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An F-35 stealth fighter at a Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd plant in Toyoyama, Nagoya Prefecture. Photo: Kyodo

The ASDF aims to eventually acquire a total of 42 F-35As, which are known for their ability to evade detection by radar. Manufactured by Lockheed Martin Corp, F-35A jet is Japan’s successor to the ageing F-4 fighter.

Japan has earmarked funds for purchasing long-range JSM missiles, capable of striking enemy bases, to be mounted on the F-35A air fleet.

But Onodera said: “The introduction of the missiles is not aimed at targeting enemy military bases. We rely on US strike capabilities for attacking enemy bases and this will remain unchanged.”

The F-35A deployed in Misawa on Friday was assembled and inspected at a Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd plant in Aichi Prefecture in central Japan before flying to the base.

This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as: Tokyo deploys first F-35A stealth fighter