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Indo-Pacific, "si vis pacem para bellum." Japan, South Korea vie to set up F-35 maintenance plant


The establishment of a new "weapons maintenance assembly line" by the United States in Japan and South Korea will certainly help Tokyo and Seoul enhance and maintain their military-industrial capabilities, but it will also be more conducive to U.S. preparations for military intervention in the Asia-Pacific region


Following the completion of the F-35 fighter aircraft maintenance and repair center in Japan, South Korea recently announced that it too will build a factory to repair such aircraft.

The news that Japan and South Korea are competing to establish maintenance factories for F-35 fighter jets has sparked widespread concern in international public opinion.


Currently, the multinational joint development of F-35 fighter jets worldwide has a total of three assembly production lines, located in the United States, Italy and Japan's Mitsubishi Heavy Industries group.


On April 16, U.S. Ambassador to Japan Emanuel visited Japan's Aichi prefecture Komaki South plant of the F-35 assembly production line.


An F-35A Lightning II assigned to the F-35A Lightning II Demonstration Team performs at Sun ‘n Fun Aerospace Expo over Lakeland, Fla., April 9, 2024. The F-35A is an agile, versatile, high-performance, 9g capable multirole fighter that combines stealth, sensor fusion and unprecedented situational awareness. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Zachary Rufus)

On April 10, the United States and Japan announced the creation of a "Military Industry Committee" and a new facility, as well as the establishment of a new "regular consultation mechanism for military-industrial cooperation, procurement and maintenance."


In this context, Japan's mass purchase of F-35 fighters is likely to be a priority for joint maintenance between Washington and Tokyo.


The 2023 version of the Japanese Defense White Paper indicates that the Japan Air Self-Defence Force has 33 F-35A fighters in service.


In total, Japan will purchase 147 F-35 series fighters for the Maritime Self-Defence Force and the Air Self-Defence Force, making it the largest foreign customer for this type of aircraft.

South Korea is not to be outdone: on April 18, the Korea Defense Acquisition Program Administration (KDAPA) announced that South Korea will build a maintenance facility for F-35 jets by 2027, becoming the second country in Asia to have a maintenance facility for the F-35 after Japan.

The ROK Air Force has a total of 39 F-35A fighter jets. In December 2023, the United States and South Korea signed the second phase of the procurement agreement: South Korea will purchase an additional 20 F-35A fighter jets, with deliveries scheduled to begin in 2027.


South Korea has stated that it will establish its own facilities for maintenance, airframe overhaul and upgrade, and stealth coating.


In mid-March, U.S. Assistant Secretary of Defense Lohman led a delegation visiting Asia-Pacific countries, consulting on the establishment of a regional weapons and equipment maintenance system.


Some analysts believe that with the new round of upgrading and strengthening the U.S.-Japan alliance, washington and Tokyo will take a number of steps to integrate the two countries' defense industry capabilities.


Japan will participate in the maintenance of U.S. Navy combat ships in Japan, and also in the joint development and production of munitions, aircraft and ships.


South Korea is able to repair F-35 fighter jets itself, which will pave the way for future joint production with the United States of F-35 fighter jet parts and even exports.


The establishment of a new "weapons maintenance assembly line" by the United States in Japan and South Korea will certainly help Tokyo and Seoul enhance and maintain their military-industrial capabilities, but it will also be more conducive to U.S. preparations for military intervention in the Asia-Pacific region.

The United States, taking advantage of Japan's and South Korea's strong military production capacity and their accumulated experience and technology in maintaining U.S.-type weapons, will not need to substantially increase investment so that damaged weapons and equipment can be repaired nearby so that they can regain their combat capability as soon as possible.


According to the U.S., this will help increase the mobilization rate and stockpile level of deployed weapons and equipment in the Asia-Pacific region, as well as offset the decline of the U.S. manufacturing industry and the shortage of military production capacity.

In the future, the United States will likely replicate this experience and model and further expand the scope of repair and maintenance of weapons and equipment in allied countries in the Asia-Pacific region.

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