Japan selected the F-4 Phantom II as its new fighter at the end of the 1960s. On 1 November 1968 this choice was made public and Japan became one of the few countries that license-produced this aircraft.
The Nihon Koku Jietai (Japan Air Self-Defense Force, JASDF) received a total of 154 F-4EJ and RF-4Es. While the F-4EJs were built almost entirely by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, the RF-4Es were bought directly from McDonnell-Douglas.
Due to Japanese military limitations prohibiting air-to-ground ordnance, the F-4EJs were delivered without the AN/AJB-7 bombing computer system and also did not have an air-refuelling probe or receptacle. In service F-4EJs replaced the JASDF's fleet of F-104Js.