WASHINGTON / TOKYO --- The Trump administration is pressuring Japan to choose a US defence company to develop jointly a replacement for its F-2 fighter jets as Tokyo considers a British alternative to cut its reliance on American weapons.
Pentagon officials have stepped up talks with Japan amid concerns the US could lose out to BAE Systems, the UK defence contractor developing a sixth generation Tempest stealth fighter, according to three people familiar with discussions about the F-3 programme.
Tokyo wants to replace its F-2s when they retire from around 2035 and plans to start development next year, in a deal that would be worth tens of billions of dollars. It is considering three options: collaborating with BAE; working with Lockheed Martin, the US maker of the F-22 and F-35 jets; or developing a plane domestically.
The US air force is worried that choosing a UK fighter would create difficulties in interoperability with both the US military and other US-made aircraft used by Japan, which could complicate joint operations. American officials are also concerned that opting for a British jet would anger President Donald Trump, just as Washington and Tokyo are engaged in tough talks about how much each should pay towards maintaining their alliance. (end of excerpt)
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(EDITOR’S NOTE: The Times reported Dec. 11 said “a source close to the Tempest program said that competition between Britain and the US for the F-3 contract was ‘hotting up’ and that ‘we expect it will only get more intense as we move towards a final decision next year.’”)