Japan has announced it will discontinue the local assembly of F-35A fighters, and instead revert to receiving its aircraft direct from Lockheed Martin’s Fort Worth plant.
The Mitsubishi Heavy Industries-operated final assembly and checkout (FACO) facility will have produced 40 of Japan’s 42 F-35As since it opened in 2013 until the time it ceases production in 2022. Japan recently announced it would acquire an additional 105 F-35s comprising a mix of 63 F-35As and 42 of the short takeoff and vertical landing F-35B variant
DefenseNews reports that Japan has struggled to sustain a local industrial manufacturing capability, saying recently released defense guidelines acknowledged it needs to overcome “challenges such as high costs due to low volume, high-mix production and lack of international competitiveness.”
It says a recent defence review and five-year plan recommended that Japan “acquire high-performance equipment at the most affordable prices possible” and “review or discontinue projects of low cost-effectiveness.”
Final assembly and checkout of the F-35As in Japan has reportedly added a premium of more than 30 per cent to the cost of each aircraft without significant technology transfer or other benefit to local industry. Japan already produces large wing and other components for Boeing’s commercial aircraft programs, in particular the 787 line.