The Defense Ministry’s plan to jointly develop a successor to the Air Self-Defense Force’s F-2 fighter jet has been shaken, as the [20 billion yen] price presented by Lockheed Martin Corp. was far higher than the initial estimate.
The ministry has been exploring the possibility of jointly developing the successor model with other countries, with Japan taking the lead. Yet questions have been raised over the cost-effectiveness of this approach, in which the proposal from Lockheed had been favored.
Currently, the ASDF deploys about 90 F-2 fighters, which are expected to be retired from service from around 2030. Given that it takes about 10 years to develop a fighter jet, the ministry hopes to include its concrete plan to develop the fighters in the next Medium-Term Defense Program for fiscal 2019 to fiscal 2023, which will be compiled at the end of this year.
The ministry has studied three options, including Lockheed’s plan to develop a new high-performance stealth jet based on the F-22 and equipped with electronic devices from the F-35.
The other two options have been presented by Boeing Co. and Britain’s BAE Systems PLC. Boeing has proposed applying technologies from F-15 fighters — the ASDF’s mainstay fighters — while BAE Systems proposed the use of technologies of Typhoon fighters, which are the mainstay of the British Royal Air Force.
These three proposals have been made on the premise of joint development with Japan.
Lockheed’s proposal exceeds the other two in terms of stealth capabilities and flight performance. Since the information-gathering stage, therefore, the ministry has viewed it as the leading candidate to develop the successor to the F-2.
Lockheed, however, submitted its official proposal Friday with a price tag of more than ¥20 billion for the new fighter. This is far higher than the ministry’s initial estimate of ¥15 billion, and far above the ¥13.1 billion price tag for the F-35 introduced by the ASDF.
“It’s just too expensive. We can’t accept this in its current form,” a senior ministry official said. (end of excerpt)
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