Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Japan gearing up to acquire F-35 fighters instead of F-22s

The Defense Ministry is making arrangements to select the F-35 as Japan’s next mainstay fighter jet, sources at the ministry and the Self-Defense Forces said Sunday. The ministry will embark on the full acquisition process in December and prepare to make budgetary requests for the stealth plane in the fiscal 2011 budget, the sources said.
The ministry is looking to buy 40 of the next-generation jets, which can evade radar and are estimated to cost about 9 yen billion each. The move apparently means priority has been put on strengthening air-defense capabilities as neighboring China makes efforts to enhance its air force by developing its own next-generation aircraft, analysts said.
The ministry, however, may postpone budget requests for the F-35 until fiscal 2012, due to a view in the government that a contract should not be concluded before the jet’s actual capabilities can be confirmed. The F-35 is set to be deployed in the mid-2010s.
The F-35 is being jointly developed by the United States, Britain, Australia and other countries. Japan is not participating because doing so would conflict with its principle of banning weapons and arms-technology exports.
Japan initially wanted to acquire the U.S. F-22 stealth jet to replace its aging collection of F-4EJ fighters, which are still used alongside F-15s and other planes, but the United States prohibits the export of the F-22, and plans to halt production have already been announced.
Japan passed on other models, such as the U.S. F/A-18 and F-15FX and the Eurofighter, which is made by a consortium of European manufacturers.
The plan to acquire the F-35 is likely to be incorporated in new defense policy guidelines and a medium-term defense buildup plan to be adopted in December 2010.
The government led by the Democratic Party of Japan decided in October to delay its adoption by a year, partly to reflect the policies of its coalition partners.

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