Japan's first F-35A
Japan gets its first F-35A. In Picture: Kenji Wakamiya, Japan's State Minister of Defence, addresses the ceremony as Japan's first F-35A aircraft is revealed at the Lockheed Martin's production facility in Fort Worth, Texas.Lockheed Martin photo by Beth Steel

Japan received its first F-35A Lightning II at a roll out ceremony in Lockheed Martin's production facility in Fort Worth, Texas on September 23 2016.

The event marked a milestone for Japan Air Self Defence Force (JASDF) as it accepted the fifth generation fighter aircraft. The aircraft has several stealth features and could be crucial for Japan that is neighbours with a nuclear armed North Korea and China.

The event was attended by over 400 guests that included Kenji Wakamiya, Japan's State Minister of Defence, General Yoshiyuki Sugiyama, Japan Air Self Defence Force Chief of Air Staff and Frank Kendall, Undersecretary of Defence for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics

Japan has ordered 42 F-35A aircraft, out of which four will be built in Fort Worth and the remaining 38 aircraft will be built at the Mitsubishi Heavy Industries facility in Nagoya, Japan.

Japan's F-35A is a conventional take off and landing (CTOL) variant being acquired via US government's Foreign Military Sales program. This version carries internal cannon and will be the most common variant of the F-35.

US has already started imparting maintenance training for the first JASDF F-35A technicians at Eglin AFB, Florida. In November 2016, the first JASDF F-35A pilots are expected to start training at Luke AFB, Arizona.

The aircraft not only adds a punch to its fire power, but is also an example of the enhancing Japan-US alliance.

"With its low observability and network capability, the F-35 is the most advanced air system with cutting-edge capability as a multi-role fighter. As the security environment surrounding Japan has become increasingly severe, because of its excellence, it is very significant for the defence of Japan to commit to acquiring the F-35 year by year," said Kenji Wakamiya, Japan's State Minister of Defence, according to a statement.

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