Three foreign companies have answered the tender launched by the Japanese Ministry of Defense to assist Mitsubishi Heavy Industries in the development of the country’s sixth-generation stealth fighter, the F-X. The three manufacturers in question are Boeing and Lockheed Martin from the United States and BAE Systems in the United Kingdom.
Seven companies had initially shown interest, as the then-Defense Minister Taro Kono said in September 2020. Only three answered the request for information, with Northrop Grumman also involved in Lockheed Martin’s bid, the newly-appointed Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi announced.
Each proposal will now be evaluated and the Japanese Ministry of Defense will decide on a manufacturer by the end of 2020. The foreign partners will provide development support regarding aspects such as stealth technology and airframe design.
On October 30, 2020, the Japanese Defense Ministry selected Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) as the prime contractor for the development of the future F-X stealth fighter jet. The cost of the program is estimated at $40 billion. The indigenously developed sixth-generation fighter jet could be deployed by 2035.
The F-X will replace the Mitsubishi F-2, a Japanese version of the F-16, currently operated by the Japanese Air Self Defense Force. It should be a twin-engine stealth fighter which will include the research done on the experimental X-2 Shinshin, a canceled fifth-generation fighter jet program. Its main mission will be air superiority, safekeeping the sovereignty of the Japanese airspace in an increasingly contested environment.