|Prototype of the first Japan-made stealth fighter.|
According to Reuters, Japan plans to develop a home-made stealth fighter aircraft rather than outsource the project to foreign companies such as the US Lockheed Martin and Boeing or the British BAE Systems.
Such a choice would favor the main Japanese defense contractor, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, with a military contract worth over 40 billion dollars. Mitsubishi has not yet submitted a design for the next generation aircraft, but has nevertheless developed the Japanese stealth fighter technology demonstrator, the X-2, in 2016.
“Japan’s stealth designs have performed well in tests so far,” said one source, who is aware of the discussion on the proposed new plan, referred to as F-3 or F-X.
A Mitsubishi Heavy spokesman said the company will follow the government in any decision.
“We understand the Japanese government will lead the development program,” spokesman said.
The Japan Self-Defense Force has around 200 Boeing F-15 jets and is replacing the old F-4 Phantom with modern F-35 fighter jets. The F-3 will take the place of the F-2 which was jointly developed by Mitsubishi Heavy and Lockheed Martin over two decades ago and is a derivative of the well-known F-16 Fighting Falcon.
Proposals from Lockheed, Boeing and BAE “were judged not to have met our needs,” said an official at the Japanese defense ministry’s Acquisition, Technology & Logistics Agency (ATLA). “No decision has yet been reached on the airframe,” he added.
After developing the initial cell, the Japanese government will select suppliers for the engine, flight systems, sensors and other components that will offer the new jet advanced capabilities, the sources said. For many of the systems, Tokyo will need help from foreign companies to reduce development costs and time.
US companies, including Lockheed Martin, Boeing and Northrop Grumman, are the main potential partners and Jappone will choose one of them later this year, sources said.
Written by Matteo Sanzani