Yes, Japan's Izumo-Class Helicopter Carriers Are Getting the F-35

David Axe

Key point: Tokyo will pair the F-35 with its two helicopter carriers. This will be the first time that modern Japan has true, fixed-wing aircraft carriers.

Japan's cabinet on Dec. 18, 2018 approved a plan to modify the Japanese navy's two Izumo-class helicopter carriers to embark F-35B stealth fighters.

The modifications should result in the Japanese fleet operating, for the first time since World War II, flattops with fixed-wing aircraft. With the two ships and their new planes, Tokyo could be able to duplicate the United Kingdom's own 1982 campaign to retake the Falkland Islands from invading Argentine forces.

"You can still do a lot with a small air wing," Eric Wertheim, an independent naval analyst and author of Combat Fleets of the World, told The National Interest. "Especially when it contains advanced stealth aircraft like the F-35B."

At the same time the Japanese cabinet approved the ship modifications, it also endorsed the purchase of 42 F-35Bs from Lockheed Martin, an acquisition that could cost up to $5 billion but should provide the Japanese air force more than enough fighters for the new carriers.

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