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Gov’t to buy 20 more F-35As, likely to call off domestic role in production

  • November 7, 2018
  • , Tokyo Shimbun , p. 1
  • JMH Translation

The Air Self-Defense Force will now introduce the F-35A, a U.S.-made cutting-edge fighter jet model, for deployment to its bases. In this regard, the government is making final adjustments for an additional purchase of about 20 F-35A fighter jets, sources said. The government is currently planning to purchase a total of 42 F-35As, with Japanese companies taking part in the production of 38 F-35As, which, as a result, drives up their procurement costs. So the government is considering importing these additional 20 F-35As from the U.S. instead of having domestic contractors participate in their production.


The Ministry of Defense (MOD) has made a total capital investment of 187 billion yen in Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, IHI, and Mitsubishi Electric, which take part in assembling F-35As or manufacturing parts for them, in order to nurture domestic industries. If the government chooses to import F-35As, the three contractors will likely have to downsize the functions of their facilities significantly. If that is the case, the government may be called into question over its decision to inject vast amounts of tax money.


The government will begin signing contracts for the additional purchase of F-35As as early as fiscal 2020.


The MOD estimates the F-35A’s per-unit cost at 15.3 billion yen in its fiscal 2019 budgetary request for domestic production. Meanwhile, the U.S. government signed a contract earlier this year with Lockheed Martin, the manufacturer of the F-35A, to price the F-35A at 10.1 billion yen per unit. If Japan directly imports the jets, the cost of acquisition will be significantly lower.


As an option possible after the 42 F-35As have been all produced, the government is looking to have its contractors close their assembly facilities but keep their maintenance service hubs for sustainable use, according to a government source. The government plans to position the additional 20 F-35As as follow-on jets to replace the currently deployed F-15 mainstay fighter jet model. The ASDF currently deploys about 200 F-15s, and the government has already decided to continue using 100 of them by repairing them. But the focus was on what to do about the remaining 100 F-15s left unrepaired.

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