The Japan Air Self-Defense Force (JASDF) is to receive its first short take-off and vertical landing (STOVL)-configured F-35B Lightning II from Lockheed Martin in 2025.
Japan’s first F-35B will be manufactured as part of Low-Rate Initial Production (LRIP) Lot 16 and will be delivered nine years after the JASDF received its first conventional take-off and landing (CTOL)-configured F-35A in 2016. The JASDF is the largest export customer of the Lightning II with a programme of record for 147 aircraft, comprising 105 F-35As and up to 42 F-35Bs. While the JASDF will receive Japan’s initial F-35Bs, some of the 42 examples expected to be procured may be operated by the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force in the future.
The production and delivery of up to 398 F-35s for a mega $30bn was finalised by the F-35 Joint Program Office and Lockheed Martin in December 2022. It included aircraft that will be produced in LRIP Lots 15 and 16 for the US, international partners and Foreign Military Sales (FMS) customers, along with an option for LRIP Lot 17. These aircraft will be the first F-35s to include the Technical Refresh 3 (TR-3) update – the modernised hardware required to power the fifth-generation multi-role stealth fighter's Block 4 capabilities. This highly anticipated update includes a new integrated core processor that boasts greater computing power, a panoramic cockpit display and an enhanced memory unit.
In total, Lockheed Martin will produce 145 F-35s in Lot 15, followed by a further 127 in Lot 16 and up to 126 if the Lot 17 contract option is exercised. This includes the first F-35s for Belgium, Finland and Poland.