Saturday morning’s Yomiuri and Nikkei wrote that Boeing, Lockheed-Martin, and British BAE Systems have each presented specifications for a fighter jet that the ASDF is looking to develop as the successor to the F-2, which will begin to retire in 2030. According to Yomiuri, Lockheed’s idea to employ the USAF F-22 as a basis for joint development is viewed as the most promising, although the ministry reportedly said the development cost, over 20 billion yen per unit, is too high. Boeing has proposed joint development using the F-15, while the BAE Systems is reportedly interested in joint development with the RAF Typhoon as the base model. Nikkei projected that the finalist may be chosen by the end of this year, adding that if Lockheed chooses to share with Japan some of the highly classified technology used in the F-22 in an attempt to bolster its bid, that would mean Japan is viewed as a “key security partner.”
In a follow-up, today’s Yomiuri said the Finance Ministry is strongly opposed to the development of a new model in the first place due to the high cost, estimated at 1 to 2 trillion yen in total, with some ministry officials reportedly insisting that the successor to the F-2 should be the existing F-35. The daily added that even if Lockheed was tapped as a partner for joint development, Japan may not be able to access the F-22’s tightly controlled core technology. “Unless local defense contractors are allowed to take the initiative in the proposed joint development, Japan will lose an opportunity to catch up in know-how for the development of fighter jets,” said an unnamed senior MOD official.