Japan's Air Self-Defense Force said Tuesday it conducted its first joint exercise with the U.S. Air Force involving their respective F-35A advanced stealth fighter jets.

The drill over the Sea of Japan off northeastern Japan on March 10 marked "a major milestone in the improvement of the ASDF's ability and Japan-U.S. joint response capabilities," Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi told reporters.

A Japan Air Self-Defense Force F-35A stealth fighter jet takes off from Misawa Air Base in Aomori Prefecture in northeastern Japan on March 10, 2022, to participate in a joint drill with the U.S. Air Force. (Photo courtesy of the Air Self-Defense Force)(Kyodo)

The air-to-air combat training conducted west of Misawa Air Base in Aomori Prefecture involved four F-35As from Japan and four from the United States.

Japan has begun deploying F-35As to boost the country's defense capabilities against China and Russia, with plans to acquire a total of 147 F-35s, including 105 units of the air force variant, as one of its mainstay fighter jets.

Known as a fifth-generation fighter, the F-35A has a stealthy body that can evade radar detection and is equipped with a high-performance radar system that can detect ballistic missiles.

Japan's F-35As were first deployed to Misawa in January 2018 to respond to airspace incursions and engage in surveillance activities on North Korea.

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