Senior Japanese and U.S. government officials joined Lockheed Martin Sept. 23 to celebrate the roll out of the first Japan Air Self Defense Force (JASDF) F-35A Lightning II, marking a major milestone in Japan’s enhanced national defense and strengthening the future of the U.S-Japan security alliance.
The ceremony was attended by more than 400 guests from both governments, militaries and defense industries.
Kenji Wakamiya, Japan’s State Minister of Defense spoke at the event, saying, “With its low observability and network capability, the F-35 is the most advanced air system with cutting-edge capability as a multi-role fighter. As the security environment surrounding Japan has become increasingly severe, because of its excellence, it is very significant for the defense of Japan to commit to acquiring the F-35 year by year. Given that the United States Government has designated Japan as a regional depot in the Asia-Pacific area, introduction of F-35A to Japan is a perfect example, enhancing the Japan-US alliance.”
Gen. Yoshiyuki Sugiyama, JASDF Chief of Air Staff, said, “The F-35A has remarkably advanced system. This highly sophisticated 5th generation fighter will bring a great development to air operations as a game changer. In integration with current JASDF assets, it surely promises to enormously contribute to not only the benefit of our national defense and but also regional stability.”
Other distinguished guests attending included: Dr. Hideaki Watanabe, commissioner of Japan’s Acquisition, Technology and Logistics Agency, Frank Kendall, undersecretary of defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics, Gen. Terrence O’Shaughnessy, commander of U.S. Pacific Air Forces, and Marillyn Hewson, Lockheed Martin chairman, president and CEO.
“The men and women of Lockheed Martin are honored to bring the exceptional capability of the F-35A to our partners and friends in Japan,” said Hewson. “The security alliance between Japan and the United States has been a cornerstone of peace and prosperity in the Asia-Pacific region for generations, and we are proud to continue that legacy of cooperation with the rollout of the first F-35A to the Japan Ministry of Defense and the Japan Air Self Defense Force today.”
Japan’s F-35 program includes 42 F-35A Conventional Take Off and Landing aircraft, acquired through the U.S. government’s Foreign Military Sales program. The first four aircraft are built in Fort Worth and the remaining 38 aircraft will be built at the Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Final Assembly & Check-Out facility in Nagoya, Japan, where aircraft assembly is underway. Maintenance training for the first JASDF F-35A technicians is underway at Eglin AFB, Florida, and the first JASDF F-35A pilots are scheduled to begin training at Luke AFB, Arizona, in November.
Three distinct variants of the F-35 will replace the F-16 Fighting Falcon and A/OA-10 Thunderbolt II for the U.S. Air Force, the F/A-18 Hornet for the U.S. Navy, the F/A-18 and AV-8B Harrier for the U.S. Marine Corps, and a wide variety of fighters for at least 11 other countries. Following the U.S. Marine Corps’ July 2015 F-35B Initial Operational Capability (IOC) ‘combat-ready’ declaration, the U.S. Air Force declared F-35A IOC on Aug. 2 and the U.S. Navy intends to attain F-35C IOC in 2018. More than 200 fleet-wide F-35s have flown almost 70,000 flight hours, to date. Japan’s first F-35A aircraft completed its maiden flight from Fort Worth on Aug. 24, piloted by Lockheed Martin’s F-35 test pilot Paul Hattendorf.