The Japanese industry’s plans of getting a larger share of the Lockheed Martin F-35 fighter jet manufacture have been ‘virtually abandoned’ in favor of mere assembly in the country.
Japan's first F-35 stealth fighter jet, which underwent final assembly in the country, was unveiled at Mitsubishi Heavy Industries' Minami Komaki Plant in Aichi Prefecture on June 5.
During the ministry's selection process for the next mainstay fighter, the Japanese defense industry requested a role producing some parts. But things are not going as planned, an article in Nikkei Asian Review said yesterday.
Selection of the next mainstay fighter jet ended in 2011 after fierce competition between three Western rivals. In addition to performance and price, the Defense Ministry took into account whether the manufacturer would allow Japanese makers to join the production process, a concern intended to help prevent the domestic defense industry from losing competitiveness.
Despite high expectations, the only role Japan is presently slated to play for the F-35 is in assembly. There was a plan to produce part of the fuselage in the country when the F-35 was chosen, but it has virtually been abandoned, according to a defense industry source. In short, selecting the F-35 hardly benefits parts makers and reduces their role in the aircraft industry.
The ministry is planning to purchase 42 F-35s. Of them, four will be imported as finished products. The ministry will then choose how to further replace the aging Japanese Self Defence Force fleet and may look at option beyond the F-35 if it gets better industrial terms, the article suggested.