Lockheed Martin announced on Monday that the Japan Ministry of Defense has selected the F-35 strike fighter as the Japan Air Self Defense Force’s next-generation fighter aircraft, following Japan’s F-X competitive bid process. Japan will order the F-35A conventional takeoff and landing variant, with its initial contract for four aircraft coming in Japan’s Fiscal 2012 that starts on April 1, according to the company. “We are honored by the confidence the Japanese government has placed in the F-35 and our industry team to deliver this fifth generation fighter to the Japan Air Self Defense Force,” said Bob Stevens, Lockheed chairman and CEO. Lockheed executives told the Daily Report last week that Japan is expected to purchase between 40 and 50 F-35As to replace its legacy F-4s, but has a total requirement for some 200 new fighters. Japan joins the nine F-35 partner nations (United States, Australia, Britain, Canada, Denmark, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, and Turkey), along with Israel, that are committed to acquiring F-35s.
U.S. Air Force F-35s and F-22s regularly deploy deep into the Pacific region from Alaska, Utah, and Hawaii. In the future, though, the head of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command would like to see the Air Force permanently station fifth-generation aircraft west of the international date line—closer to China.