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Japan to take on servicing of F-15 and F-16 U.S. fighter jets

TOKYO — The Japanese government is to expand its capacity to service U.S. fighter jets based in Japan to enhance bilateral defense cooperation in East Asia.

F-18 and the latest F-35 fighter jet models stationed at U.S. bases are serviced and repaired in Japan. Tokyo plans to add the F-15 and F-16 capability in 2025 at the earliest, and to tap Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and IHI as service providers. Both companies service Japan’s Air Self-Defense Force (ASDF) aircraft.

The U.S. F-16s and F-15s are stationed at Misawa and Kadena air bases, respectively, with about 50 aircraft at each in 2022.

While daily maintenance is carried out at the bases, the jets have to be flown to South Korea for full servicing once every few years by Korean Air Lines. That can take anything from a few days to several weeks.

Tokyo wants to shorten the time involved and eliminate the cost of flights abroad.

Japan’s reluctance to take on the servicing of the F15s and F16s changed with a rethink of national security arrangements in 2022 to increase domestic capacity.

At April’s Japan-U.S. summit, a government-to-government Defense Industrial Cooperation, Acquisition and Sustainment (DICAS) agreement was finalized for the full servicing of U.S. military aircraft in Japan.

The servicing upgrade has been prompted by perception of an increased military threat from China. In the year ended March this year, approaching aircraft triggered 669 ASDF aircraft scrambles, of which 479 were caused by Chinese aircraft.

During the same period, China flew drones between Yonaguni Island, in the southernmost Japanese island prefecture of Okinawa, and Taiwan. It also flew bombers jointly with Russia for long distances over areas peripheral to Japan.

Source: Nikkei Asia