In one of the biggest fighter jet contracts up for grabs in years, a ministry spokesman said Japan will contact foreign and domestic defense contractors soon after a July 5 deadline for expressions of interest in the tender for about 100 stealth fighters.
A final decision is likely in summer 2018, the people said, with deployment due at the end of the 2020s at the earliest.
The JASDF has three options, according to a Japanese official interviewed by Flight Global.
- Develop an indigenous air superiority fighter.
- partner with a foreign defense contractor and license-produce a new aircraft
- import or upgrade an existing platform.
Lockheed Martin was denied an export license to sell its F-22 Raptor stealth air superiority fighter to Japan in the 2000s. As a result, Japan’s defense industry initiated the X-2 program in order to design a fifth-generation twin-engine stealth aircraft with long-range capability and an internal weapons bay.
As an interim solution, Japan decided to acquire 42 Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters, the first of which are slated for induction into the JASDF at the end of 2016.
Japan has a long-standing interest in acquiring a twin-engined stealth aircraft with long-range capability and internally-stowed missiles, according to the people with knowledge of the F-3 program.
The only aircraft now in service that meets those requirements was Lockheed's F-22 but the F-22 is no longer in production.
SOURCES- Reuter, The Diplomat