Lockheed Martin joins Japanese fighter jet program


Lockheed Martin was selected by the Japanese government to provide technological support to Mitsubishi Heavy Industries in the development of an indigenous sixth-generation fighter jet for the country’s air force, according to Nikkei. 

Mitsubishi was awarded the leadership of the project on October 30, 2020. Mitsubishi was awarded the leadership of the project on October 30, 2020. A week later, three foreign companies, namely Boeing and Lockheed Martin from the United States and BAE Systems in the United Kingdom, answered the tender launched by the Japanese Ministry of Defense to provide development support regarding aspects such as stealth technology and airframe design.

It is not the first time that Lockheed Martin shows interest in the project. In fact, the story of the F-X started because of a Lockheed aircraft. Back in 1997, Japan showed strong interest in the F-22 Raptor, the first of its generation. However, technologies inside the fighter jet were judged too critical and the U.S. Congress took the decision not to export it. 

This forced Japan to design its own fifth-generation fighter jet, leading to the birth of the experimental X-2 Shinshin. But despite a successful maiden flight in 2016, the project was deemed too costly. The idea of developing a fifth-generation fighter jet was eventually scrapped.

In April 2018, Lockheed Martin sent Japan a proposal never seen before: a hybrid fighter jet 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. But the solution was too pricey and too risky for the Japanese Ministry of Defense.

Now that Japan is developing its own sixth-generation fighter jet to replace the aging F-2, Lockheed Martin finally found a way to collaborate with the island country. The upcoming aircraft could be deployed by 2035.

More assistance from foreign companies could come in the future. For example, Japan could be interested in BAE Systems’ knowledge in electronic warfare technology, according to Nikki.


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