TOKYO --- Japan wants to develop a stealth fighter domestically, rejecting designs from Lockheed Martin Corp and Boeing Co in the United States and Britain’s BAE Systems PLC, three sources with knowledge of the program told Reuters.
That would put Japan’s leading defense contractor, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, in the lead for a military contract worth more than $40 billion. The company has not submitted a design for the next-generation fighter, but developed Japan’s stealth fighter technology demonstrator, the X-2, in 2016.
“Japan’s stealth designs have performed well in tests so far,” said one of the sources, who has knowledge of discussion about the new proposed plane, referred to as the F-3 or F-X.
A spokesman for Mitsubishi Heavy said the company would work with the government on whatever policy it decided to follow.
“We understand the Japanese government will lead the development program,” a Mitsubishi Heavy spokesman said.
Japan’s Air Self Defense Force flies about 200 Boeing F-15 jets and is replacing squadrons of decades-old F-4 fighters with Lockheed Martin F-35s. The F-3 will succeed the F-2, a derivative of the F-16 Fighting Falcon jointly developed by Mitsubishi Heavy and Lockheed Martin more than two decades ago.
Proposals from Lockheed, Boeing and BAE “were judged not to have met our needs,” said an official at the Japanese defense ministry’s Acquisition, Technology & Logistics Agency (ATLA). “No decision has yet been reached on the airframe,” he added. (end of excerpt)
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