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Japan Set to Procure F-35B STOVL Aircraft for JMSDF Izumo-class 'helicopter destroyer'

The Japanese government has decided to procure the F35B short take-off and vertical-landing (STOVL) stealth fighter aircraft as part of the new defense plan to be outlined next month. This information was reported by Japanese media Nippon News Network (NNN).

SRVLAn F-35B Lightning II conducts the first ever shipborne rolling vertical landing (SRVL) on board HMS Queen Elizabeth. (U.S. Navy photo courtesy of the Royal Navy/Released)

The carrier-borne aircraft would be procured to be deployed from the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force(JMSDF) two Izumo-class helicopter destroyers, JS Izumo and JS Kaga. The two vessels, the largest in the JMSDF fleet with a displacement of 27,000 tons (full load) and a length of 248 meters would be modified in order to accommodate the aircraft.

The first ship in the class, Izumo was launched on 6 August 2013. The ship was commissioned on 25 March 2015. Kaga was commissioned on 22 March 2017. The F35B is a derivative of the F35A already operated by the Japan Air Self Defense Force.

Japan Set to Procure F 35B STOVL Aircraft for JMSDF Izumo class helicopter destroyerJS Izumo (DDH-183). JMSDF

According to the NNN report, the Japanese government decision to introduce the F-35B is related to China strengthening its expansion into the ocean. Japan aims to strengthen the defense capabilities of the Southwestern islands including the Senkaku Islands.

The Japanese government will incorporate its decision in the Defense Outline that will be announced next month after showing these policies to both Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and Komei parties.

In February 2018, the Yomiuri Shimbun reported that Japan was planning to acquire 40 vertical takeoff and landing F-35Bs, which could be operated from these ships with some alterations. In March this year, the ruling LDP called upon the Japanese government to develop its own aircraft carriers and operate F-35B aircraft, which has been thought to include refitting the Izumo class.