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Japan to stop in-country assembly of F-35 fighter jets

Japan has confirmed it won't use its in-country final assembly facilities for its next lot of Lockheed Martin F-35 fighter jets, but will instead acquire aircraft imported from overseas for its upcoming fiscal year 2019 contract.

Japan to stop in country assembly of F 35 fighter jets Japanese F-35A (Picture source: Lockheed Martin)

The Japanese government earlier that month approved the country’s defense budget, which includes $612 million for the acquisition of 6 F-35As for the upcoming fiscal year. This budget also allocates $366 million for “other related expenses”, including maintenance equipment tied to Japan’s F-35 program.

Japan has taken the local final assembly and checkout, or FACO, route since 2013 for the final assembly of F-35As it previously ordered. Yet, the FACO facility may continue to carry out production work until February 22 to fulfill the F-35As contracted by Japan.

According to Japanese budget documents, the country agreed to purchase 24 of the F-35As, with each aircraft costing an average $144 million, although the cost per aircraft has been on a downward trend.

In addition to the 42 F-35As, Japan has also indicated its desire to procure a further 105 F-35s, which will include 42 of the F-35B short-takeoff-and-vertical-landing variant. The defense plan has called for the acquisition of 45 F-35s over the next five years, of which 18 will be F-35Bs.