Japan will have ‘invisible’ missiles for their fifth-generation F-35 fighters
TOKYO, (BM) – Kongsberg Defense & Aerospace announced that it had signed a contract with Japan worth NOK 820 million [USD 74.5 million] for the supply of JSM [Joint Strike Missile] missiles for the 5th generation F-35A Lightning II machines, learned BulgarianMilitary.com citing Defence24. The parties did not provide information on the number of missiles to be delivered.
Read more: Japan joins hypersonic weapons race
In November 2019, the Japanese government ordered the first batch of missiles worth $ 49.5 million. The first JSMs are to reach the recipient in April 2021. The new contract from December 1, 2020, increases the total value of Japanese JSM missiles to over USD 124 million. In this way, Japan used the option of additional purchases included in the contract of November last year. With the estimated price of the missile at around USD 1.5 million, this means a total of over 80 rockets.
The purchase of many JSM missiles is part of a more comprehensive program because Japan will be the second user of the 5th generation Lockheed Martin F-35 aircraft after the US, with a fleet of 147 machines. Tokyo also acquires weapon systems such as the latest generation air-to-air and air-to-ground missiles along with the fighters. Japan is also planning, among others develop airborne hypersonic missiles and other types of own weapons. Until Japan launched missile production, the solution is, for example, the JSM maneuvering missiles designed to fit into the internal armament chamber of the F-35.
Using the JSM missile, the range of which can reach 400 km, the F-35 aircraft can maintain a safe distance by hitting a ground or surface target, even if it is heavily defended. JSM uses NSM proven passive guidance, detection, and identification systems. The navigation system allows a low altitude flight to optimize the chance of reaching your destination. In the terminal phase of flight, the missile, built under the requirements of the reduced detectability [stealth] technology, can maneuver with high overloads to avoid being hit by the enemy’s air defense systems.
Japan will produce F-35s and become a center for next-gen fighter jets
The Japanese Ministry of Defense announced that the responsibility for the construction of the next-generation fighter, currently known as the F-X, will be taken by a single company, which will be a “single prime” contractor, as we reported in August this year. Other news is the decision to build 105 F-35A and B for Japan at the Nagoya assembly plant. The same service from which Tokyo gave up two years ago in this respect.
This means that in the coming years Japan will become a great center for the construction and production of top-class combat aircraft. The beneficiary in both cases will most likely be Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI), which previously performed, inter alia, combat aircraft F-1 and currently serving F-2. Japanese Defense Minister Taro Kono said the main contractor, systems and engine integrator for MHI’s domestic aircraft will be “almost certainly”.
In turn, the FACO (Final Assembly and Check-Out) line located in Nagoya is a plant created in cooperation with MHI and the F-35 manufacturer – Lockheed Martin. Interestingly, in 2018, after the first aircraft were assembled there, it was decided that it would be more profitable to import ready-made machines from the United States, and in Japan to focus on their servicing, modernization, inspection and maintenance.
Now, apparently, important improvements have been made to the Japanese FACO, as the Japanese say that assembling the machines will not be more expensive now, but cheaper than importing from the USA. This means taking the pressure off the troubled Lockheed Martin production lines in Fort Worth and possibly developing new methods to reduce aircraft construction costs and / or time.
It is also possible that Japan is mainly not about money, but about maximizing the independence of the F-35 acquisition program, and thus increasing the efficiency of its production and the speed of its implementation into service. In the current geopolitical situation in the Far East, it would not be surprising. The heavy F-X program is also to be run with maximum possible use of domestic industry. Still, the Japanese assume international cooperation.
Only two countries indicate in this context: the USA and Great Britain. In particular, it is desirable to work with Washington as the most experienced owner of the appropriate technologies and strategic partner on the international stage.
Mitsubishi was chosen to make the next generation Japanese fighter jet
Mitsubishi Heavy Industries has been designated on October 31 as the prime contractor for the Japanese F-X’s next-generation fighter program, the Japanese Defense Ministry said. This information is not a big surprise. Mitsubishi Heavy Industries [MHI] is the most experienced and, in fact, the only supersonic fighter aircraft builder in Japan, and manufactured the Japanese Mitsubishi F-1 combat trainer and currently used Mitsubishi F-2 based on the F-16C. The company also runs the Japanese F-35 final assembly line.
At the same time, Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi announced that Japan would now be looking for an “overseas” partner to provide some technical solutions, in particular pointing to stealth technology. This partner is to be selected by the end of this year and it can be speculated that, due to the current experiences of individual companies in this regard, Lockheed Martin will be chosen as the winner.
The first funds for research and development should soon be transferred to MHI. For 2021, the Japanese Ministry of Defense is forecasting $ 555.8 million plus $ 113.6 million for armament work for the new machine. Considering the funds allocated to similar work in the Tempest or FCAS / SKAF programs, these are large funds, provided, of course, that they are approved by the parliament.
Despite the high technical advancement and strong economy in the field of building a modern combat aircraft, the Japanese industry will have a lot to catch up on and will have to develop a modern engine (here the work will be continued by IHI Corporation), AESA-class radar and develop stealth technologies.
However, some work has already been carried out and some experience has been gained. We are talking about the ATD-X demonstrator, which in the years 2016-2018 performed a series of air tests, igniting the imagination of commentators and being exaggeratedly referred to as the prototype of the “Mitsubishi F-3” fighter. After revealing the silhouette of the planned fighter this year and changing its concept, it turned out that it will look completely different and that it will not be “something between the F-35 and F-22”, but rather an airplane resembling the more forgotten Northrop YF demonstrator 23, larger than the Raptor and with a huge range.
Currently, the Japanese fighter’s program assumes the following cut-off dates: airframe and engine design work should start by the end of March, construction of the first prototype is to begin in 2024, and in 2028, its flight tests are to begin. So they will start in parallel with the launch of the Korean Boramae fighter. Meanwhile, the entry to the line of the Japanese aircraft should take place in 2035.
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