The fifth-generation fighter jet was displayed on Monday in Toyoyama, Japan, a city about 6,483 miles from the US F-35 manufacturing facility in Fort Worth, Texas. The Mitsubishi Heavy Industries plant assembled the aircraft, according to Jiji Press.
Mitsubishi wasn’t explicitly involved in the design, but its workers are contracted by Lockheed to build the planes. Italy and Japan comprise Lockheed’s sole manufacturing partners for the jet, according to the company’s website.
According to Lockheed, the F-35 Lightning II is composed of more than 300,000 individual parts.
Japan’s native defense industry was underwhelmed by Japan’s participation in F-35A construction, however, according to Nikkei. Business sources told the news outlet that Japan was only contracted for the F-35’s final assembly, despite a previous plan to make bigger parts of the plane such as the fuselage. Nikkei noted that this deal “has virtually been abandoned,” citing an unnamed industry source.
The first foreign-assembled F-35 took its maiden flight in Cameri, Italy in 2015.
In line with the Arms Export Control Act, the US government will in some instances give other nations non-repayable grants or direct loans under the foreign military financing (FMF) program to buy US weapons systems. In 2016, the Obama administration pledged $33 billion in FMF dollars to Israel over a ten-year period to “permit Israel to update the lion’s share of its fighter aircraft fleet—including through the acquisition of additional F-35s,” according to a White House fact sheet.
Japan has agreed to procure 42 Joint Strike Fighters under the Arms Export Control Act’s foreign military sales (FMS) program. Contrary to FMF, arms deals classified under the FMS heading “may be funded by country national funds or US Government funds.” Under FMS deals, Japan must buy planes from the US government instead of Lockheed, in order for the government to keep a close watch on sensitive technology.
The government agency that sells the jets for Lockheed, dubbed the Defense Security Cooperation Agency, “typically charges a 3.8 percent sales fee” for these types of transactions, according to a report from the Japan Times.
In an interview with Time magazine, US President Donald Trump claimed “[the Pentagon] had 35 of them fly over Japan… and they were not detected by the radar. They flew over and everyone said where the hell did they come from? That's stealth. It's pretty cool, right?”