Japan to deploy F-35B fighters to bolster Nansei Islands defense

Nikkei -- Jul 17
Japan's Self-Defense Forces will deploy state-of-the-art F-35B stealth fighters in southwestern Miyazaki Prefecture, Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi said Friday, as the country ramps up defenses around its Nansei Islands.

Six F-35Bs will be stationed at the Air SDF's Nyutabaru Air Base in fiscal 2024, with two more to be added in fiscal 2025. The decision comes amid increasing military activity by China near the Senkaku Islands, which are part of the Nansei chain and are claimed by China as the Diaoyu.

"It was the best fit," Kishi told reporters Friday.

On Kyushu, the southernmost of Japan's four main islands, Nyutabaru is located relatively close to the Nanseis, as well as to U.S. squadrons of F-35Bs at the Marine Corps Air Base Iwakuni. It has previously hosted squadrons of F-15s and other fighter jets.

The Defense Ministry briefed local authorities of the plan on Thursday. "It is extremely important to have the support of the local community," Kishi said.

Developed by Lockheed Martin, F-35Bs require just a short runway to take off and can land vertically. They are in use by defense forces in the U.S., the U.K. and elsewhere.

- Nikkei