Photo/IllutrationThe Maritime Self-Defense Force's Izumo helicopter carrier anchors in Singapore for an International Maritime Review. (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

  • Photo/Illustraion

Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera dropped a bombshell admission March 2 by saying he authorized studies into whether advanced F-35B stealth fighter jets can be deployed on the Maritime Self-Defense Force's Izumo helicopter carrier.

Such activity would fly in the face of war-renouncing Article 9 of the Constitution that prohibits Japan from maintaining more than the bare minimum to protect itself.

Aware of the political ramifications of his comment in the Upper House Budget Committee session, Onodera added, "No decision has yet been made about whether the F-35B will actually be attached to the Izumo."

The Izumo is the largest vessel in the MSDF fleet and any move to refit it into an aircraft carrier would face an uproar from the opposition parties.

Akira Koike of the Japanese Communist Party called Onodera's comment "an important admission" in light of the government's past refusal to possess an aircraft carrier due to the nation's exclusively defensive posture.

"But he (Onodera) is now saying consideration is being given to fundamentally change the posture of the nation," Koike said.

The U.S.-made F-35B is the most advanced stealth fighter jet and unlike the F-35A now used by the Air SDF, it can take off from a short runway and also land vertically like a helicopter.

In the Upper House Budget Committee session, Onodera said, "Regarding the Izumo, research has been conducted on which among the latest aircraft could possibly take off and land on it. The most representative aircraft is the F-35B. (The research) is intended to accumulate fundamental information regardless of the conclusion reached in the future."

But he stopped short of stating whether the Constitution banned the possession of any aircraft carrier. He would only say "attack" aircraft carriers that had many aircraft capable of loads with extreme destructive power or anti-land attack capabilities would not be allowed.