Japan deploys first F-35A fighter jet to Misawa AB

Japan deployed its first F-35A stealth fighter on Friday at the Misawa Air Base in Aomori Prefecture in the country's northeast, the country's defense ministry stated on January 26, 2018. The deployment of the next-generation fighter marks the beginning of the formation of an Air Self-Defense Force (ASDF) squadron comprising 10 of the jets at the base from the next fiscal year starting in April, the defense ministry said.

Japan deploys first F 35A fighter jet at Misawa AB 640 001 Japan's first F-35A fighter jet at Misawa AB
(Credit: JASDF)

"This will belong to the F-35A squadron on a temporary basis and will first undergo operational tests. Later, more F-35As will be sequentially deployed. It has been decided to eventually introduce a total of 42 F-35As under the current plan", Japan's Defense Minister, Itsunori Onodera, said on January 23.

The jets will number 42 eventually, according to the defense ministry's plans, and the F-35As will be capable of carrying the already budgeted for long-range Kongsberg Joint Strike Missile (JSM).
The air-launched standoff missiles are, controversially, capable of striking enemy bases, the scenario of which would contravene Japan's constitutionally bound defense-only stance.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, however, is ardently trying to amend a key clause in the Supreme Law to achieve his career goal of further loosening restrictions on the nation's Self-Defense Forces, despite the majority of Japanese people being against changing the pacifist charter for the first time since World War II.

Abe's moves towards normalizing Japan's military have also unsettled some of Japan's regional neighbors and the broader international community.

Japan's Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera was quoted as telling a press briefing on the matter on Friday that the (JSM) missiles, however, would not be used for attacking enemy bases.

"The introduction of the missiles is not aimed at targeting enemy military bases. We rely on U.S. strike capabilities for attacking enemy bases and this will remain unchanged."