The Japanese Defense Ministry selected Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) as the prime contractor for the development of the future F-X stealth fighter jet.

“We have signed a contract with Mitsubishi Heavy Industries,” the Defense Ministry announced on October 30, 2020. “In the future, we will steadily proceed with the development of the next fighter (FX) together with the company.” 

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. The Japanese Air Self-Defense Force is already replacing its antique F-4 fighters with the Lockheed Martin F-35, while 200 Boeing/Mitsubishi F-15J jets constitute the backbone of its fleet.

Japanese contractors will be trusted with the critical aspects of the design, such as radars, sensors and electronic warfare systems. A tender has been opened for foreign companies to provide support regarding aspects such as stealth technology and airframe design. Seven foreign manufacturers have applied, Defense Minister Taro Kono said in September 2020.

The contract is a welcome opportunity for Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, which halted the development of the SpaceJet,  its regional jet program, amidst the pandemic. The deliveries of the SpaceJet had already been delayed six times as the aircraft was initially expected to be operational by 2013. At the end of its fiscal year in March 2020, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries reported its first yearly operational loss in two decades.