Japan May Buy US F-35B Jets For Its First Aircraft Carrier - Defense Minister

© AP Photo / Cliff OwenA Marine Corp F-35B Joint Strike Fighter sits on a runway at Patuxent River Naval Air Station, Md
A Marine Corp F-35B Joint Strike Fighter sits on a runway at Patuxent River Naval Air Station, Md - Sputnik International
Japanese media reported earlier that the Defense Ministry had been redesigning its helicopter carrier into the country's first aircraft carrier, capable of accommodating US F-35B aircraft.

The Japanese Ministry of Defense is considering purchasing US F-35B fighter jets to deploy on the country's JS Izumo helicopter carrier, Minister of Defense Itsunori Onodera said Friday during hearings of the budget commission of the House of Councillors.

"The ministry is studying whether F-35B fighter jets can use the deck of JS Izumo," Onodera said, adding that no decision on the issue has been concluded yet.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who also took part in the hearings, said that the government wasn't considering the issue of remodeling the country's helicopter carrier into aircraft carriers, but noted that it was "necessary to search for an increase in the effectiveness of marine aviation, regarding both — the current capabilities and the purchase of new technologies."

READ MORE: Japan Secretly Designed Destroyers as F-35-Loaded Aircraft Carriers — Report

This photo taken on September 8, 2017 shows Surface-to-Ship Missile (SSM-1), a truck-mounted anti-ship missile, at Japan Ground Self-Defense Force (JGSDF) 1st Artillery Brigade at Camp Kita-Eniwa in Eniwa, Hokkaido prefecture - Sputnik International
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According to earlier media reports, Japan was considering the creation of the country's first aircraft carriers on the base of JS Izumo helicopter carrier. The spendings on the project will be included in the country's 2019 defense budget, while the vessel will be put into operation in 2020.

JS Izumo, as well as another Japanese helicopter carrier the JS Kaga, are already primed for F-35B operations, even though the country still hasn't decided on the purchase of the jets. A Japanese official recently confirmed that the purchase of 25 F-35As — the jet's traditional runway variant — is in the pipeline but a decision on F-35B aircraft has not been reached yet.

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