How powerful is the Japan Air Self-Defense Force

The Japan Air Self-Defense Force (JASDF), is considered to be one of the best equipped and well trained air force in Asia, equipped with only to its American counterpart fighters.

With tensions rising across Asia, the rise of the “dragon” China, a predestined adversary close by, and its giant nuclear-armed neighbor to the north, Russia; Japan’s Self-Defense Forces have been embarking on a rearmament program aimed at creating a more proactive position in the region.

What is JASDF?|ORGANIZATION | [JASDF] Japan Air Self-Defense Force

One of the key pieces in ensuring Japan’s security is the Air Self-Defense Force (JASDF). JASDF is in service, many types of aircraft, most of which are American-made. However, with a world-leading level of technology, Japan has developed, manufactured and improved many types of aircraft, making them capable of outperforming the original in some features.

JASDF is also one of the few countries that still uses the F-4 Phantom II fighter, the main fighter that the US used during the Vietnam War. The F-4EJs, however, were all built in Japan in the early 1980s and are now backline aircraft.

JASDF has three main missions: air defense; respond to natural disasters and ensure airspace security. To complete the air defense mission, JASDF equips about 260 frontline fighters.

The majority of the JASDF’s front-line fighters are F-15J heavy fighters, which are American versions of the F-15C Eagle, but manufactured in Japan by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries under license. Currently, JASDF owns 199 F-15JS.

F-15J of Japanese air force
F-15J of Japanese air force

Japan is also the only country that has the rights to build the F-15 under license. The Japanese F-15J is equipped with electronic warfare and internal communications equipment and data links with the JASDF and allied US aircraft. The F-15J, however, is not capable of carrying nuclear weapons.

Modernized F-15Js, equipped with new radars, supporting Japanese-developed AAM-4 non-visual air-to-air missiles; this is the first air-to-air missile, using a phased array radar (AESA) probe, to increase target scanning speed and accuracy. Also added a helmet-mounted sight, to control the new AAM-5 short-range missile, allowing the pilot to lock the missile onto an enemy aircraft, simply looking at the enemy aircraft; a capability comparable to the Russian Su-27/30 and the Chinese J-11.

In contrast to the American AIM-9 missile, the Japanese AAM-5 also uses a thrust vectoring engine, similar to the Russian short-range missile. The AAM-5 uses an advanced target probe, manufactured by the Japanese company NEC. About 200 F-15Js are currently in service and half have been modernized,

JASDF is also equipped with Mitsubishi F-2 light fighter; this is an upgraded Japanese version of the F-16, with some stealth features. The F-2 also has a larger engine, and is also the first fighter to be equipped with an AESA radar.

JASDF F-2 fighter
JASDF F-2 fighter

Besides, because the F-2 has a larger wing area, the lift is greater than that of the F-16. There are about 100 F-2s in service with the JASDF, the F-2s serve as the F-15J backline.

Currently in the JASDF there are still some F-4EJ Phantom IIs; this is a heavy, twin-engine, two-seat fighter; was once considered the most modern in the region; some of which are RF-4EJ reconnaissance versions. There are still about 50 F-4EJs, still in service with the JASDF; but basically the F-4EJs are nearing the end of their useful life.

Japan air self defense force Mitsubishi F-4EJ
Japan air self defense force Mitsubishi F-4EJ

To replace the number of F-4EJs, JASDF is procuring F-35A 5th generation stealth fighters. According to JASDF’s plan, the F-35A will completely replace all F-4EJ aircraft in the JASDF’s service.

Under the JASDF’s plan, the number of modernized F-15Js will be further increased, and unmodernized F-15Js and obsolete F-2s will be replaced by F-35Bs, or New Japanese fighter model.

The F-35B is being considered for purchase, as it can take off from a shorter runway than the F-35A, allowing the JASDF to place some of its aircraft on remote islands; especially in the East China Sea, where Japan is in dispute with China.

To support the fighter units, the JASDF is equipped with a fleet of early warning aircraft Boeing E-767 and AWACS E-2C and E-2D Hawkeye; combined with ground radar, to guide their fighters to the air advantage.


The Maritime Patrol Force is not part of the JASDF, but part of the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force. This force is equipped with maritime patrol aircraft P-3 Orion.

To carry out humanitarian assistance and disaster response missions, as well as military airlift, the JASDF is equipped with domestic Kawasaki C-1 and C-2 military transport aircraft, capable of taking off and landing. on short runways (STOL), to operate on a number of smaller islands, from civilian airports.

Kawasaki C-2  mid size transport aircraft
Kawasaki C-2 mid size transport aircraft

Overall, the JASDF is one of the most capable air forces in Asia. Leveraging on the cutting edge avionics in the country, JASDF aircraft and equipment are equipped with some of the best avionics, radar and missile systems in the world.

In addition, as America’s No. 1 ally in the Asia-Pacific region, with its technological capabilities, Japan has improved US aircraft designs, in line with its strategy of building Japan’s air defense force, holds the No. 1 position in the region. 

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