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Japan keeps partnership options open on F-X fighter programme

Japan has yet to decide on whether to partner with the United States or the United Kingdom on its project to develop a next-generation fighter aircraft, although Tokyo has now confirmed that it will push ahead with a totally new design for the programme.

News reports in Japan earlier in March suggested that the US had already been selected for the partnership role but the Ministry of Defense’s (MoD’s) Acquisition, Technology & Logistics Agency (ATLA) told Jane’s on 10 March that discussions with both the US and UK are continuing.

Japan’s partner on the F-X programme – either the US or the UK – is expected to be formally announced later this year. In January the MoD in Tokyo released this ‘conceptual image’ of the new fighter.

“We will launch a Japan-led development project with the possibility of international collaboration,” a spokesperson from ATLA said. “The Japan MoD is in discussion with the US and the UK from the viewpoint of ensuring interoperability, cost effectiveness, and technical reliability. We have been exploring the possibility of co-operation with these two countries.”

The spokesperson added, “There is no such fact that we have decided specific policies including partner countries. Furthermore, the Japanese MoD has excluded ‘a derivative of an existing model’ as an option [for the fighter aircraft development programme] and we came to the conclusion that we would develop ‘a new model’.”

ATLA also told Jane’s that by December it aims to determine a “preliminary framework” outlining its partnership strategy. This framework is expected to formally identify its foreign industry partner and its role in the development project.

In January the MoD also confirmed that the fighter development project is named ‘F-X’ and released the first “conceptual image” of the new aircraft, which is intended to replace the Japan Air-Self-Defense Force’s (JASDF’s) Mitsubishi F-2 fighter aircraft in the 2030s.

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