LUKE AIR FORCE BASE, Alaska, Dec. 2 (UPI) -- Japan's Air Self-Defense Force received its first Lockheed Martin F-35A Joint Strike Fighter at Luke Air Force Base.
The delivery marks a milestone for Lockheed Martin's F-35 program, with Japan now one of three U.S. foreign military sales customers, along with Israel and South Korea. The first F-35A variant was presented during a ceremony on Sept. 23.
IHS Jane's reports the aircraft will join an international training fleet at Luke Air Force Base, where pilots from partner countries will receive instruction.
"Today is a great day for the US Air Force Reserve Command, Luke AFB, the 944th Fighter Wing, and the Japanese Air Self-Defence Forces," Col Kurt J Gallegos told Flight Global. "We have a great team of airmen who have worked hard to set up an outstanding training program and are ready to train our FMS counterparts."
The Japanese government is on course to purchase 28 F-35 joint strike fighters over the next five years, part of a plan to procure 42 of the planes in total. Six of the fighters are currently under contract.
The F-35 is Lockhead Martin's heavily promoted next-generation fighter jet. Japan plans to procure the planes to replace its fleet's aging Mitsubishi-McDonnell Douglas F-4J Kai aircraft, in service since the early 1970s.