TOKYO — Japan is considering buying around 40 F-35 fighter jets as the future mainstay of the nation's air force, it was reported Monday.
Japan has officially been pacifist since World War II but has been gradually expanding the role of its military, in part due to concern over nuclear-armed North Korea and China's continued military growth.
The defence ministry will likely seek funds in the fiscal 2011 budget for the fighters, Kyodo said citing unnamed sources.
The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF), being developed by the United States, Britain, Australia and other countries, is estimated to cost about nine billion yen (101 million dollars) each, Kyodo said.
Japan initially aimed to acquire the F-22 Raptor, which is built to evade radar detection at supersonic speeds, to replace its aging F-4EJ fighter fleet, but the United States has announced a plan to halt production of the jet.
Japan has been looking at six models of aircraft, including the Raptor, the F-35 and the Eurofighter -- designed by a European consortium.
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