The Ministry of Defense (MOD) disclosed at a joint meeting of the Liberal Democratic Party’s National Defense Division and Research Commission on National Security that the cost of refurbishing about 70 F-15 Air Self Defense Force (ASDF) fighter jets will be 398 billion yen, up 23% from the original estimate. The MOD concluded that there was no effective alternative plan and announced its plan to continue the refurbishment program.
The U.S. manufacturer had presented an estimate for 552 billion yen in December 2020, a figure which was 70% higher than the initial estimate of about 324 billion yen due to depletion of parts. Since a reduction in cost was not expected, the MOD had not allocated the repair cost in the FY2020 budget, nor did it include the cost in the FY2021 budget. The MOD continued discussions on possible options, such as suspending the refurbishment project.
The increase from the initial estimate was reduced from about 229 billion yen to about 74 billion yen through subsequent discussions on cost cutting with the U.S. side. The refurbishment cost per aircraft, including the initial costs, is now expected to increase to about 3.5 billion yen, up from the initial estimate of about 3.3 billion yen.
The MOD concluded that it was more reasonable to maintain the current project than to pursue a plan to purchase new F-35 fighters, saying that “refurbishment was the reasonable choice in terms of cost and operation.”
The introduction of the “LRASM” air-to-ship and air-to-ground long range missile, which was originally set to be installed on the aircraft, was postponed to reduce costs. This cut the expense by about 60 billion yen. The MOD also improved efficiency by jointly procuring parts for electronic warfare equipment with the U.S. Many attendees of the LDP joint meeting called for further cost reductions, however. Based on such views, the MOD designated the refurbishment project as a priority for “project management” to assign full-time staff to it and carefully manage the project and its expenses.
The Self-Defense Forces (SDF) possesses 201 F-15 aircraft to date. The Medium Term Defense Program (FY2019-2023) states that the about 70 of the aircraft will undergo the following improvements to respond to the rapid modernization of Chinese fighter jets: 1) improving electronic warfare capabilities; 2) doubling the number of intermediate range air-to-air missiles loaded on aircraft; and 3) installing long-range missiles.