Japan's very first F-35A stealth fighter jet has reportedly been deployed to respond to airspace aggression and to spy on North Korea. The radar- evading F-35A fighter, which was sent to the Misawa Air Base, is reportedly also used by the US military and will soon replace Japan's ageing fleet of F-4 aircraft.
From April, Japan's Air Self-Defence Force intends to deploy nine more F-35A jets to form a squadron of 10 fighter jets, Japan Times reported. Japanese defence minister Itsunori Onodera told reporters: "The deployment of the high-performance F-35 aircraft is significant for Japan's security at a time when neighbouring countries have been quickly building up their air force capabilities in recent years."
As the potential for a North Korean threat continues to escalate, Japan is looking to upgrade its air force. Japan reportedly plans to purchase 42 more F-35A fighter jets over the coming months. The Japanese government also plans to purchase long-range JSM missiles, which when placed on F-35A jets, are capable of attacking enemy military bases. However, Japan reportedly has no plans to use the missiles to attack its adversaries' bases.
"The introduction of the missiles is not aimed at targeting enemy military bases. We rely on U.S. strike capabilities for attacking enemy bases and this will remain unchanged," Onodera said, Japan Times reported.
Meanwhile, US and South Korea have reportedly postponed a massive joint military drill, which usually takes place in March and April and involves thousands of troops from both nations. CNN reported that the annual joint US-South Korea drills will take place after the 2018 Winter Olympics.