The Japanese Defense Ministry aims to seize the initiative on the development of a next-generation fighter jet, but it faces a host of technological and cost challenges.
The Air Self-Defense Force’s next-generation fighter, which will replace the F-2, will feature new technologies such as stealth capacity for evading enemy radar and electronic warfare capability.
With the ministry prioritizing joint development with the United States, it is uncertain whether Japan can take control of the development.
If Japan is in control, it will be able to conduct upgrades and maintenance at its own convenience.
During development of the F-2, Japan did not have the needed technology to build the engine and other key components and had to allow the United States to take the initiative in development. Bilateral trade friction also helped give the United States more control.
Japan had difficulties with upgrading and maintaining the jets because it was unable to obtain confidential design information from the United States.
In light of this experience, the ministry aims to produce core components domestically — including mission-critical systems, the engine and radar — for the next-generation fighter.
The U.S. proposed a hybrid version of the state-of-the-art F-22 and F-35 stealth fighters but Japan rejected the proposal, with one senior ministry official saying, “We won’t be a subcontractor of the United States.”
Japan and the U.S. will set up a joint public-private committee to flesh out development plans. For Japan, however, it would appear to be difficult to feel optimistic. (end of excerpt)
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