07:22 GMT06 March 2021
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    Tokyo is moving to acquire at least 25 more F-35A aircraft from Lockheed Martin, some of which would be built at Lockheed Martin’s plant in the US instead of the Lockheed-Mitsubishi Heavy Industries plant in Japan, which can also build the fifth-generation planes.

    "In view of budgets and production schedules, a new acquisition of around 25 planes is appropriate," a Japanese official told Reuters Wednesday.

    F-35B Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter
    © REUTERS / US Marine Corps/Lance Cpl. Remington Hall/Handout

    By purchasing some of the aircraft directly from Lockheed's US-based plant, the Japanese government could save about $30 million per plane.

    Thirty-eight of the 42 F-35A aircraft Tokyo has already purchased are being constructed at the Mitsubishi Heavy Industries plant in Komaki, Japan.

    Tokyo has also reportedly considered plans to obtain F-35B aircraft, the F-35 variant capable of short takeoffs and vertical landings on smaller aircraft carriers or helicopter carriers.

    In late December, the Japan Times reported that the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force was considering whether the fleet's Izumo-class vessels could conduct F-35B operations in addition to naval helicopter operations.

    F-35B Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter
    © REUTERS / US Marine Corps/Lance Cpl. Remington Hall/Handout

    Japanese Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera pushed back against the report, however, telling reporters that "no concrete examination is under way on the introduction of [the] F-35B or remodeling the Izumo-class destroyers."

    Japan's first F-35A aircraft are deployed in northern Japan to conduct surveillance on North Korea and protect Japanese airspace.


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    f-35, Japan Air Self-Defense Force, Itsunori Onodera, Japan
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