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Japan partners with UK to develop successor for F-2 fighter jet


The Japanese and British governments are moving towards joint development of a successor to the F-2 fighter jet of Japan’s Air Self-Defence Force (ASDF).

The two governments are in the final coordination stage of the project, in which key components for the new fighter jet will be jointly developed British defence and aerospace firm BAE Systems, according to multiple government sources.

The engine will be developed jointly with Britain’s Rolls-Royce. US defence contractor Lockheed Martin will also take a limited role.

Tokyo will decide on the overall aspects of the project by the end of the year, the sources said.

The government intends to introduce the fighter jet in the mid-2030s when the F-2 jet will be phased out of service. Mitsubishi Heavy Industries will play the lead role in designing the fuselage and developing the systems.

Regarding the engine, the Japanese and UK defence ministries have already reached an agreement to conduct empirical research ahead of joint development by major Japanese heavy machinery manufacturers IHI Corp and Rolls-Royce.

The two ministries will begin talks soon on the specific components for which BAE will be responsible, such as missile systems.

Britain is currently proceeding with the development of its next fighter jet, the Tempest, with the involvement of BAE. With the overlap of the development of the next-generation fighter jets, the countries are expected to pursue streamlining of common areas.

The Japanese government looked into receiving technical support from Lockheed Martin, developer of the F-35 stealth fighter jet, but coordination faced numerous hurdles. This included the massive amount of confidential information involved, as well as high costs and maintenance of the jets after deployment.

As such, Lockheed Martin’s involvement in the project will likely be limited to the development of functions dealing with interoperability, such as communications with US aircraft.

The ASDF’s future vision calls for a line-up of three mainstay fighters — the revamped F-15, the F-35, and the new fighter jet. The F-15 is positioned as a fourth-generation aircraft and the F-35 is a fifth-generation aircraft with a stealth function.

The successor to the F-2 fighter jet will be equipped with stealth function, as well as the ability to continue operations even if hit by electromagnetic interference.

At the current stage, Japanese fourth- and fifth-generation fighters number about 300, far less than the approximately 1,000 deployed by China. It is expected that about 90 fighters to succeed in the F-2 will be deployed.

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Published : May 16, 2022

By : The Japan News