So, the F-35 Join Strike Fighter got a major shot in the arm last night when Japan chose the JSF to its next fighter jet.
Tokyo decided to buy four F-35A conventional model JSFs next year to kick start its effort to replace two squadrons of ancient F-4 Phantoms. Last night's news validates reports that emerged last week claiming the JSF was guaranteed a win in the Japan's F-X fighter contest that pitted the Lockheed Martin-made jet against Boeing's cheaper F/A-18E Super Hornet and the Eurofighter Typhoon (the Eurofighter probably never had much of a shot given Japan' super close ties to the U.S. military).
As we've said before, it makes a lot of sense for Japan to buy the F-35. The island nation has long wanted a stealth jet to modernize its air force with. After the U.S. denied Japan access to the F-22 Raptor, Tokyo looked at America's export friendly stealth jet and obviously liked what it saw. As we've said before, Japan is increasingly concerned about the rapid growth of China's military and buying the F-35 gives Japan the same fighter that will serve as the backbone of it's biggest ally's (the U.S.) 21st Century tacair fleet. One big question is, how quickly will the Japanese Ar Self Defense Force be equipped with combat-ready JSFs?
Japan's F-4s are supposed to be retired very soon and those four F-35As will likely be training jets. The Pentagon has already pushed back its initial operational capability dates for the JSF to the end of this decade, and those dates may be pushed further back still. Will Japan continue t fly F-4s and aging F-15 Eagles until the 2020s? Check out sister site DoDBuzz for answers to these questions later today.