Lockheed Martin plans to offer a hybrid stealth fighter design based on its F-22 Raptor and F-35 Lightning II aircraft.
The proposed aircraft "would combine the F-22 and F-35 and could be superior to both of them," Reuters reported quoting unnamed sources Friday.
Lockheed Martin has discussed the idea with Japanese defense ministry officials and will make a formal proposal to a Japanese request for information (RFI) after it receives permission from the US government to offer the sensitive military technology, sources said.
“Japan is considering domestic development, joint development and the possibility of improving existing aircraft performance, but no decision has been taken yet,” a Ministry of Defense spokesman was quoted as saying on Friday.
Japan had earlier considered building the aircraft indigenously. The F-2 replacement program, dubber F-3, costs an estimated $40 billion. Japan has sought international collaboration in a bid to share the expense and also gain access to technology it would otherwise have to develop from scratch, the report stated.
The Japanese government in March issued a third RFI for the F-3 to foreign defense companies and sent a separate document outlining its requirements in more detail to the British and United States governments.
In addition to a proposal from Lockheed, Japan is hoping for responses from Boeing Co, which makes the F/A-18 Super Hornet multirole fighter, and BAE Systems Plc, which is part of the consortium that built the Eurofighter Typhoon high-altitude interceptor.
Japan, which is already buying the radar-evading F-35 to modernize its inventory, also wants to introduce a separate air superiority fighter in the decade starting 2030 to deter intrusions into its airspace by Chinese and Russian jets.
The country's air force currently flies the F-15J, based on the Boeing F-15; and the F-2, based on the Lockheed Martin F-16. Both designs are decades old.
Japan's ambition to build its own stealth fighter was in part spurred by Washington's refusal a decade ago to sell it the twin-engined F-22, which is still considered the world's best air superiority fighter.
Japan's last jet fighter, the F-2, which entered service in 2000, was built jointly by Mitsubishi Heavy and Lockheed Martin.