Japan’s hawkish Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has committed to purchasing 42 units of Lockheed’s tactical strike fighter the F-35A, with an option to buy more if Japan’s Self Defense Forces (SDF) like what they see in the technologically advanced fighter. This group of fighter planes, added to Japan’s already robust air force, would have the chance to make any confrontation with China’s military a relatively advantageous one for Tokyo, given the fighter’s capabilities.
The F-35 has had a colorful history so far, with controversies rocking its manufacture and eventual assimilation into the U.S. military. This is due to problems with design and manufacturing, plus a history of going over budget in the process. Abe however, sees the fifth-generation fighter as one of the key deterrent against the China’s constant rising aggressiveness, especially in the East China Sea region where both countries are locked in a bitter territorial dispute over a string of uninhabited islands.
According to Canada-based defense website Kanwa, the F-35s could strike any major target – including China’s newest naval baby, the aircraft carrier Liaoning – with hard-to-intercept strike missiles from a very safe distance of 290km away. From that safe bubble, the F-35’s advanced radar acquisition technology should also be able to locate and engage China’s main fighter aircraft – the J-15 – before any of the F-35s are even detected. For comparison, China’s J-15s carry air-to-ship missiles that have an effective range of only 180km.
For their part, the Chinese are reportedly trying to develop its own stealthy fifth-generation fighter, the Chengdu J-20. The J-20 is meant to be China’s main multi-role fighter aircraft, similar in use and scope to the F-35. But observers are saying that because this is China’s first attempt at building stealth aircraft, the technology that they will be using for the J-20, including the aircraft’s functionality, remain in question. At present, each of the three released prototypes of the J-20 have differed substantially, as the Chinese continue to manage the steep learning curve of manufacturing stealth technology.
[via Business Insider]