The Japan Ministry of Defense has chosen Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) to build F-X, a next-generation stealthy fighter jet that would replace the country’s long-serving F-2s.
The ministry on October 30 issued a brief statement on its website that read: “We will steadily proceed with the development of the next fighter (F-X) together with the company.”
The move represents an initiative, just like the European efforts to move away from American dominance over defense products. Japan has earmarked $256.5 million in fiscal year 2020 for "F-X related research projects" and "conceptual design in Japan-led development.” It is set to rival U.S. F-22 jets both in size and performance.
MHI has previously built F-16-derived F-2 and F-1 Supersonic strike aircraft. It had also undertaken the license-production of the F-4EJ Phantom II and the subsequent F-15J Eagle air superiority fighters. While the Japanese company will be the prime contractor, Lockheed Martin or BAE Systems could be chosen as partners. Boeing and Northrop Grumman are also in the running.
Tokyo wants to buy 100 F-X aircraft when the F-2s retire in 2035. The project is expected to cost $40 billion.