Japan’s first F-35’s will be flying sorties from Luke Air Force Base by the end of 2016 according to a Lockheed Martin spokesman. The first batch of four is slated to roll off LockMart’s production line in November, with JASDF students flying missions shortly thereafter. That’s another step in the right direction for a production line that has experience a large number of lengthy delays. It will definitely be interesting to see how everything pans out with the F-35.

Japanese pilots will fly the F-35A Lightning II fighter jet for the first time by year’s end, according to a Lockheed Martin spokesman who was in Tokyo this week to meet with the Japan Air Self-Defense Force.

The first four stealth planes earmarked for Japan will roll off a production line in Fort Worth, Texas, in November, said Eric W. Schnaible, the company’s F-35 international communications manager. Schnaible will also visit Nagoya and Misawa facilities associated with the aircraft later this month.

Japanese pilots are slated to take off in the jets for the first time at Luke Air Force Base, Ariz., where Australian, Norwegian and Italian personnel are already learning to pilot the F-35, he said.

First F-35's for JASDF to Fly by Year End

Japan is one of eight countries jointly developing the high-tech fighter. With a price tag of $1 trillion, it’s become America’s most costly weapon.

The Fort Worth facility is one of three places where F-35s are being assembled. The others are Mitsubishi Heavy Industries’ plant in Nagoya and Alenia Aermacchi’s factory at Cameri, Italy.

The first of 38 additional Japanese F-35s will roll out of Nagoya next year, said Schnaible, who is also the former U.S. Forces Japan public affairs chief.

The new jets will be stationed at Misawa alongside U.S. F-16s from the 35th Fighter Wing, with F-35 pilot training eventually taking place in Japan, he said.

Many of the first F-35 pilots are transitioning from other aircraft such as Harriers, F-16s or F-18s. However, the Marine Corps and Air Force recently began sending pilots to train on the aircraft immediately after flight school, Schnaible said.

The original article can be read in its entirety at Stripes right here.
(Feature photo by Jason Hyatt)