Aug 20 (Reuters) - Japan plans to seek funding to buy six F-35 stealth fighter jets in next year’s budget to strengthen defense of remote southwestern islands against China, which has grown increasingly assertive at sea and in the air, the Nikkei reported.
The Ministry of Defense intends to ask that 124.9 billion yen ($1.21 billion) be set aside, the Nikkei said.
Air Self-Defense Force hopes to buy 42 of the aircraft in all to replace its fleet of aging F-4 fighters, the Nikkei said.
Japan has bought ten F-35s stealth fighters since 2012, but this will mark its first time buying six in a single year. The ministry will also seek 54 billion yen to buy three surveillance drones capable of extended flight, the Japanese daily said.
The ministry is also expected to request 58.8 billion yen for new airborne early-warning aircraft, the Nikkei added.
By the end of 2014, the ministry will choose between Northrop Grumman Corp’s E-2D and a Boeing Co plane, the daily said.
Defense-related budget requests for fiscal 2015 are also expected to include 13.7 billion yen for improving the capability of E-767 airborne warning and control system aircraft, 10 billion yen for repairing eight F-15 fighters, and 8.2 billion yen for buying surface-to-air missiles, the Nikkei added.
$1 = 102.9000 Japanese yen Reporting by Sneha Banerjee in Bangalore