The United States government this week approved the planned purchase of Japan of 63 of the F-35A conventional takeoff and landing variant (CTOL) and 42 F-35 short takeoff and landing variants (STVOL), bringing a total of 105 F-35 joint strike fighters to the Japanese arsenal. Japan first announced the plan to procure a large number of Lockheed Martin F-35 joint strike fighters in 2018.

According to FlightGlobal, the Japan Defense Security Cooperation Agency has already notified Congress of the planned purchase, which is worth about $23 billion.

The announcement pushed the Asian country one step closer as the most significant foreign customer of the Lockheed Martin-developed single-seat stealth fighter. And if the country decided to move forward with the purchase, it would become the second-largest operator of the F-35 joint strike fighter after the United States. However, the deal is not yet finalized and still subject to the Japanese government's final approval, so expect some changes in the coming days.

What the latest arms deal will bring to the Japanese arsenal

According to DefenseNews, which got the full details of the story, Japan orders F-35Bs to equip the two Izumo-class aircraft carriers, the Izumo and Kaga. This latest move by the Japanese government is expected to enhance the capability of the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force.

As expected, the aircraft carriers will get a major design overhaul to accommodate the massive F-35 operations. This will include a number of improvements onboard, like adding reinforced and heat-resistant decks and many more.

In addition to the stealth aircraft, the deal will also include 110 Pratt and Whitney F135 engines, turbines and spare parts, associated electronic warfare and communication systems, training gear, infrared flares, software integration, a performance-based logistics package, and the Autonomic Logistics Information Systems.

First introduced in July 2015, the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II is a single-seat, multirole stealth fighter that is designed t perform air superiority, electronic warfare, intelligence gathering, reconnaissance and strike missions. The F-35 has three main variants, the carrier-based variant F-35C, the short takeoff and vertical-landing variant F-35B, and the conventional takeoff and landing variant F-35A.

The F-35 first entered service with the US Marine Corps in 2015, followed by the US Air Force in 2016, and the US Navy in 2019. The F-35 is projected to operate with the US military and its allies until 2070.

Japan reveals plan for a next-generation fighter jet

The Japanese Ministry of Defense has finally revealed to the world the timeline for developing its locally-made next-generation fighter jet, with full-scale production set to start in 2031. The defense agency presented the draft development plan for the next-generation fighter jet program to a group of lawmakers, the DefenseNews reported.

The new stealth fighter will replace about 90 Mitsubishi Heavy Industries-developed F-2 fighters, which are due to be retired from the service in 2030.

The selection process for the prime defense contractor will start early next year, probably around October 2020, the DefenseNews reported. This is to provide enough time for the development team to work on the basic design for the airframe and engine, which will be launched before the end of the current Japanese fiscal year.