The Japanese Ministry of Defense has announced plans to buy six F-35As next year, and they’re asking for a $1.21 billion budget to do it.
The news comes only days after a consortium led by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries unveiled a mock-up of the country’s first indigenously made stealth fighter aircraft.
Called the Advanced Technology Demonstrator-X, or ATD-X, the aircraft has similar technology to the F-35 stealth fighters with a prototype set for a test run in January.
Following the initial flight, the jet will undergo about two years of testing at the defence ministry with Tokyo set to decide on whether to buy the plane by early 2019.
The MoD has been struggling with rising costs and various difficulties with the troubled F-35 stealth fighter program. The Air Self-Defense Force hopes to buy 42 of the aircraft in all to replace its fleet of aging F-4 fighters, the Nikkei said.
Japan has bought ten F-35s stealth fighters since 2012, but this will mark its first time buying six in a single year. The ministry will also seek 54 billion yen to buy three surveillance drones capable of extended flight, the Japanese daily said.
Meanwhile, Mitsubishi will not supplying parts to F-35 manufacturing project due to an intra-governmental spat over investment. Nearly $97 million is required by Mitsubishi in investment for plant and equipment to meet plans to produce 24 F-35s for Japan’s Self-Defense Forces and foreign militaries annually.
The company asked the government to shoulder the investment required to produce the fighters for foreign clients, but the Defense Ministry refused, ministry sources told Asahi Shimbun.
The program is likely to be scaled down as Mitsubishi Heavy’s participation in the project as a parts supplier now remains “nowhere in sight,” according to a senior Defense Ministry official.
The project was authorized as an exception to Japan’s self-imposed ban on arms exports before the Abe administration eased the restrictions in April.
The international collaboration involved companies from United States, Britain to supply Lockheed Martin with parts that are to be assembled in the US, Italy and Japan.
In fiscal 2013, the Defense Ministry reached agreement with IHI Corp. to build engine parts for the SDF models and with Mitsubishi Electric Corp. for the supply of electric components.
The two companies started supplying the parts to Lockheed Martin and other partner companies that fiscal year. They also plan to export parts for F-35s to be deployed in foreign countries.
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