TOKYO, (BM) – Lockheed Martin has been chosen as a significant partner of Mitsubishi Heavy Industries in the Japanese F-X fighter program, learned BulgarianMilitary.com citing Defence24 and according to report from Nikkei.com. However, this will not be the only foreign contractor to provide the necessary technologies.
Recall that in 2018, after years of deliberation and before unsuccessful attempts to purchase F-22 Raptor fighters, the Japanese authorities decided to finance their F-X fighter program. Simultaneously, it was announced that the Japanese industry would play a leading role in it, and foreign companies will support it, mainly as suppliers of know-how and technology. In October this year, the Japanese Government selected Mitsubishi Heavy Industries as the main contractor for the new aircraft responsible for designing the machine and integrating its specific systems. This means that Japan will create its first combat aircraft of the 3rd generation of the Mitsubishi F-1.
However, the F-X project will involve a total of about 1,000 companies. Where possible – Japanese. Where not – there will be foreign solution providers. Among the Japanese giants responsible for the essential systems of the future machine, which will probably be called the Mitsubishi F-3, today is Nikkei’s list: Subaru, responsible for the landing and landing gear subsystem, Toshiba and Fujitsu, which must create a suitable radar, and Mitsubishi Electric in charge of the electronic warfare system.
Companies from the Anglo-Saxon countries will also benefit. The choice of Lockheed Martin, which is yet to be officially announced, is to assign the company tasks related to integrating systems, including radar and missiles, stealth properties, maneuverability, and the ability to quickly develop new technologies. This company’s choice aims to strengthen Tokyo’s political ties with Washington and allow for optimal interaction of the F-3 with the F-22 and F-35 and a door to cooperation with Northrop Grumman, considered the owner of the best solutions in the field of network orientation. Japan is one of the countries that has applied for the IBCS air defense management system’s price and availability, which could be integrated, for example, by local patriots and adapting to work with the F-35.
According to Nikkei, Lockheed Martin had to beat two other companies vying for the most important foreign partner’s status. These were Boeing and BAE Systems. The latter is expecting to continue to play a prominent F-X role as an electronic warfare technology provider.
The Japanese estimate that the program to create multi-purpose aircraft will cost them $ 48 billion. Ultimately, they want to build 90 machines that will go into service in 2035. The planes will be challenging to detect thanks to physical and “electronic” stealth, have a wide range and ability for network-oriented cooperation and their F-35 and American F-35 and F -22.
Tokyo has explicitly stated that aircraft construction responds to expanding the People’s Republic of China’s military potential, whose potential in the number of fighter jets he estimates as “over a thousand.” The Japanese also point to the desire to present 5th generation fighters from China and the Russian Federation.
Japan will produce F-35s and become a center for next-gen fighter jets
The Japanese Ministry of Defense announced on August 4 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. Other news from recent days 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.
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