Japan picks Lockheed Martin to assist in F-X future fighter aircraft development


A concept image of the F-X fighter for the JASDF. Photo c/o Japan MOD.

The Japanese Ministry of Defense (MOD) has selected American defense giant Lockheed Martin as its preferred partner to provide support to Japanese company Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) in developing the F-X fighter aircraft for the Japan Air Self Defense Force (JASDF).

MHI is the prime contractor for the project.

The announcement was made on 18 December 2020, wherein the MOD chose Lockheed Martin due to its experience in fifth generation fighter development which includes the F-22 Raptor and F-35 Lightning II.

Two other competitors, Boeing and BAE Systems, were competing for the partnership.

Among the aspects considered by the Japanese MOD in their decision to select Lockheed Martin includes its proposals with regards to mission system integration, compatibility between kinematic performance and stealth capabilities, and capability to create detailed designs through computer simulation.

Lockheed Martin also benefits from previous working experience with Japan on fighter development, with the Mitsubishi F-2 derived from Lockheed Martin's F-16 Fighting Falcon, and the JASDF being a major export market for the F-35 Lightning II. MHI's operation of a final assembly line for the F-35s also gives advantage for both companies.

MHI is yet to finalize its partnership with Lockheed Martin, which also brought in Northrop Grumman as its team partner, although the Japanese MOD still plans to seek partners to assist on specific subsystems and equipment including engine and avionics development.

The Japanese government will still need to receive export approvals from the US government with regards to technology to be used in the F-X program.

The F-X fighter program aims to provide the JASDF with an advanced manned fighter aircraft to keep up with the growing threat from China, while replacing older aircraft like the Mitsubishi F-2, and most likely the Boeing F-15CJ/DJ Eagle as well.

It is expected to feature electrically actuated control surfaces, fiber-optic flight control system, and reduced radar cross section and heat signatures. Advanced technology like electromagnetic wave absorbers, metamaterial application and use of ionized gas are also being considered to further reduce radar cross-section.

Other technology like a new low-bypass engine from IHI Corporation, Gallium-Nitride AESA radar from Toshiba and Fujitsu, thrust vectoring systems, advanced mission systems and electronic warfare systems from Mitsubishi Electric, and others.

Japan's MOD will be receiving JPY57.6 billion (US$557 million) for Fiscal Year 2021, which will be used for developing the F-X fighter program.  

[1] Jane's
[2] Flight Global
[3] Forbes

Japan picks Lockheed Martin to assist in F-X future fighter aircraft development Japan picks Lockheed Martin to assist in F-X future fighter aircraft development Reviewed by Asia Pacific Defense Journal on December 29, 2020 Rating: 5

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