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Japan to Pick F-35 as Next-Generation Fighter

Date Posted: 2011-12-16

Japan's Defense Ministry plans to select Lockheed Martin Corp.'s F-35 stealth jet as the next-generation mainstay fighter for the Air Self-Defense Force.

The F-35, which has advanced stealth and information-sharing functions, is the only fifth-generation fighter among the three candidate models, which also include Boeing Co.'s F/A-18 Super Hornet and Eurofighter GmbH's Typhoon, according to informed sources who say the final decision will come Friday after Air Self Defense Forces Chief of Staff Shigeru Iwasaki recommends the selection Defense Minister Yasuo Ichikawa. The government's Security Council of Japan will make a final decision as early as tomorrow.

At a news conference, Ichikawa said Japan is at the final stage of selecting its next-generation mainstay fighter, with performance being what Japan values most. The winner will succeed the country's aging fleet of F-4 fighters. The ministry is requesting outlays to buy four next-generation fighters under the regular budget for fiscal 2012 that begins next April. The ministry plans to take delivery of the new fighter starting in fiscal 2016 and eventually have a fleet of about 40 jets.

In its selection, the ministry scrutinized the proposals of the three camps in terms of the performance and price of the aircraft, as well as how far Japanese firms would be allowed to participate in production. Along with its advanced stealth technology, the F-35 features a system that allows pilots to share information on enemy aircraft gathered via their radars. Delays in product development are a key problem, however. Some say Lockheed Martin may not be able to deliver F-35s by fiscal 2016.

Sources familiar with the negotiations say Japan plans to purchase about 40 of the F-35 stealth fighters, enough to cover two air squadrons. Although the U.S. spent more than $65 million developing the F-35, sources say Japanís cost will probably be more, with the nation asking for •55.1 billion in fiscal year 2012. As the contract proceeds, Japan hopes to have part of the planes to be built by Japanese firms..

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