Lockheed Martin is the first company to answer the tender of the Japan air force for a new air superiority fighter. And Reuters reported that the U.S.-based manufacturer came with a proposal never seen before: a hybrid that could use both designs of the popular F-35 Lightning II and, more surprisingly, the F-22 Raptor, despite the latter being banned for export by the Congress.

This strong decision is a way for the United States to help one of its closest allies to stay ahead of both China and Russia which are known for their repeated intrusions inside Japan airspace. A fifth generation fighter using both designs would be a strong deterrent against both the Chinese and Russian air forces.

Definitely burying the idea of an indigenous fifth generation plane, the next Japanese fighter will use a foreign design but integrate several Japanese components such as engines and the radar. The project will most likely see Mitsubishi Heavy Industries collaborate with a foreign manufacturer who will be awarded the contract.

In the meantime, Japan is buying F-35A to replace its aging fleet composed of the indigenous F-2 and F-15J, both also based on U.S. designs and manufactured by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries.

Japan has been trying to get its own stealth fighter plane for a while now. After the U.S. Congress announced that the F-22 would not be available for foreign countries because of its advanced stealthy technology, the Japanese Ministry of Defense decided to start a project of its own.

In 1997, the U.S. Congress made a decision not to export the F-22 despite strong interest from Japan, as technologies inside the fighter were judged too critical. This forced Japan to design its own fifth generation plane, the X-2. Despite a successful maiden flight, the project was deemed too costly.

Japan is still awaiting proposals from other foreign planemakers, especially Boeing and British BAE Systems, respectively manufacturers of the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet and the Eurofighter Typhoon.