Lockheed Martin is reportedly in discussions with Japan about developing a new fighter which will integrate the kinematic capabilities of the F-22 Raptor with the advanced sensor and communications suites from the F-35 Lightning II.
Reuters has reported the company has discussed the concept with Japan Self Defence Force officials, and, subject to approval by the US Government, is planning to make a formal proposal in response to a Japanese RFI.
“We look forward to exploring options for Japan’s F-2 replacement fighter in cooperation with both the Japanese and U.S. governments,” a Lockheed Martin spokeswoman told Reuters. “Our leadership and experience in 5th generation aircraft can be leveraged to cost-effectively provide capabilities to meet Japan’s future security needs,”
Japan has ordered 42 F-35As to replace its F-4EJ Phantoms, and the majority of its F-35s will be built at a final assembly line (FAL) in Japan. But it also has a requirement for a higher performance and longer-ranging fighter to replace the Boeing F-15J and Mitsubishi F-2 next decade to counter a rapidly improving and emboldened Chinese PLAAF.
Efforts to develop an indigenous Japanese 5th generation fighter under the nascent F-3 program resulted in the Mitsubishi X-2 Sinshin prototype being flown in 2016, but this program is believed to have stalled due to the high cost of going it alone.
The indigenous effort was initiated after the US refused to sell the F-22 to close allies including Japan. A law was passed in 1997 preventing the export of F-22 technology from the US, and this was upheld by successive administrations. F-22 production ceased in 2011 with only 187 of an original USAF requirement of 750 aircraft being built, and most of the tooling was subsequently destroyed.