Tokyo faces tough decision on stealth fighter jet program
Having both an increasingly bellicose North Korea and an incrementally growing Chinese military to worry about, the Japanese military and aerospace industry is going to use the Japan International Aerospace Exhibition (October 12-15, 2016) to promote the need for an advanced stealth fighter jet.
In March 2016, the Japanese Defence Ministry published a request for information (RFI) for the new stealth aircraft, which would be operated by Asia’s second biggest military together with Lockheed Martin’s F-15 and F-35 jets.
The new jet, codenamed F-3, would become one of the most important projects of the decade for the Japanese military sector, costing up to $40 billion. Right now, the decision makers are presented with two options, one emphasizing cost, the other – the level of technology.
According to industry sources, those pushing for a cheaper model are officials close to Shinzo Abe, Japan’s Prime Minister. Such a decision would allow allocating more funds for other military purchases. Another benefit would be the increased possibility of selling the jet to other nations, resulting in a lower unit price at home.
The country’s Ministry of Defence and Japanese companies are in favor of a costly, but more advanced fighter. According to the proponents, such a decision would help atone for projects granted to American suppliers.
Mitsubishi Heavy Industries have already performed the tests of a prototype stealth fighter jet, codenamed ATD-X, in April 2016. It is still unclear, however, whether it would fit Japan’s needs, as the issued RFI does not reflect the specifications the jet must possess.
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