The Japanese Ministry of Defense is considering purchasing US F-35B fighter jets to deploy on the country's JS Izumo helicopter carrier, Minister of Defense Itsunori Onodera said Friday during hearings of the budget commission of the House of Councillors.
"The ministry is studying whether F-35B fighter jets can use the deck of JS Izumo," Onodera said, adding that no decision on the issue has been concluded yet.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who also took part in the hearings, said that the government wasn't considering the issue of remodeling the country's helicopter carrier into aircraft carriers, but noted that it was "necessary to search for an increase in the effectiveness of marine aviation, regarding both — the current capabilities and the purchase of new technologies."
JS Izumo, as well as another Japanese helicopter carrier the JS Kaga, are already primed for F-35B operations, even though the country still hasn't decided on the purchase of the jets. A Japanese official recently confirmed that the purchase of 25 F-35As — the jet's traditional runway variant — is in the pipeline but a decision on F-35B aircraft has not been reached yet.