Japan previously had bought tons of F-35 jets, known as the world’s most advanced air combat jet, but Japan is not satisfied as Chinese threats rise. This has led Tokyo to increase its attention to its F-3 and F-X assault programs.
Japan has been intercepting frequent unauthorized Chinese jets violating their airspace. This has led the Japanese Air Self-Defence Force ( JASDF ) to be very tight on their Air-Defence Identification Zone.
Previous year in July, US approved Japan to buy 105 F-35 jets consisting of F-35A and F-35B. Japan is on its way to becoming the most significant international customer and will own 147 F-35 from this $23 billion deal. This also makes Japan the second most country piloting fighter jets.
Even though Lockheed claims that the 5th-generation of F-35 is “very low observable stealth, advanced sensors, information fusion, and network connectivity all packaged within in a supersonic, long-range, highly maneuverable fighter.” In contrast to this statement, Japan seems to have observed some restrictions with F-35 regarding its air-to-air weapon-carrying capabilities.
According to reports, there may be as many as 450 F-35 Joint Strike fighters in Europe with the US and NATO allies by 2030. Globally, 600 F-35s operate from around 30 locations.
According to Kyodo News Agency, the Japanese Defense Ministry has switched from reactive mobilization to proactive surveillance. It considers the F-35B a key component of its defense strategy to isolated islands, including Nyutabaru, JASDF’s base on Nyutabaru, east coast of Kyushu, owing to its vertical-landing and short-takeoff capabilities. Since Japan has decided to import so many of the F-35s, its Izumo-class helicopter- destroyers have also been modified accordingly.
Japan’s Concern over F-35s
Even though the F-35 is the best out there, Japan still looks unsatisfied. Japanese Defence Minister Taro Kano mentions that Japan’s next fighter jet must not lack air-to-air missiles.His exact words were to the reporters were,” We will emphasize network functions and demand high stealth performance. It will carry more missiles than the F-35.”
The Japanese government is keen to develop its capabilities. So, it plans to create an advanced stealth plane by combining aspects of the US F-22 fighters with those of Lockheed’s F-22 stealth fighter.To go to the specifics, Japan wants to merge the aero-body of F-22 with the sensors and technologies of F-35. US also has offered its helping hands to support to such a program.
This project has also made Washington interested. According to the Japanese newspaper, Yomiuri Shimbun, it’s willing to disclose some of the classified files regarding the fighter jets. That includes the source code too, in hopes of collaborating on the awaited F-3 program.
The Mysterious F-X Program
F-3 or F-X, the next-generation fighter jet, will have twin-engine engines and carry six internal weapons. According to The Eurasian Times, the aircraft will complement lighter F-35 jets.The F-3 should reduce the gap between Russia and China, which developed and deployed advanced aircraft in the region. F-3s should replace F-2 and F-15s when it comes out.The newly appointed PM Yoshihide Suga and his cabinet are keen in developing the 6th generation of the F-X program and considered it a high priority matter.
Japan wants to compete with the USA, China, and Europe, hence is investing $48billion into developing the F-X stealth fighter jet.Developing jets doesn’t happen overnight, so this project will start by 2031 and be deployed by 2035. After all the waiting, the jet will be deployed with pieces of equipment such as remote control drones, several electromagnetic sensors, and the ultimate air-to-air missiles.
The F-X and F-3 programs exist because Japan requires an aircraft with more weapons capability than the F-35s. Russia and China are already leading in this area. The US F-22 Raptor can also carry eight missiles, another Lockheed Martin product.Six missiles can be fitted into the internal bays of both the Russian Su-57 stealth fighters and the Chinese J-20 stealth fighters. The Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor can also carry eight missiles.
According to National Interest, Lockheed proposed to collaborate with Japan’s industry on an F-3 design. It combines the F-22 stealth fighter’s airframe with F-35 electronics and sensors.Experts in military intelligence pointed out the F-35 capability gap, which may be exploited to its advantage by China. Peter Layton, an Australian analyst, stated that China wants to keep its JASDF out-balanced and reactive, wear down its aircraft and aircrews, gain training, and keep the pressure up.
In fear of such a condition, the Japanese defense ministry revealed the official timeline regarding the design, construction, testing, and deployment of the supersonic F-3 fighter. Squadrons of F-3s will fly from 2035.
Sources: Eurasian Times
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