Anyone with some knowledge of Japan and its anime would instantly get this piece of news. It’s really no secret that the Japanese can be such great aficionados of fighter jet aircraft, as shows and games like “Area 88”, “Macross” and “Ace Combat” have proven beautifully. And this extends to real life also, with what the Japanese Defense Ministry and local manufacturers have been cooking up for their Air Self Defense Force.
The Defense Ministry has told Reuters that it was launching a round of bidding for their next generation fighter aircraft for the JASDF, dubbed the F-3 Fighter Jet Program. It comes down to a contract deal worth $40 million for new jets as Japan works to maintain its air capabilities and superiority against growing tensions with China in the region. Foreign defense contractors and local Japanese companies are being contacted by the Defense Ministry after a July 5 deadline of stating interest to cover the tender of up to 100 new fighter planes for Japan.
According to Tokyo-based Asia-Pacific online mag The Diplomat, Japan has long desired to gain new warplanes in order to finally replace some of its arsenal, such as the aging F-4IIJ and the Mitsubishi-built F-2 derivative of the American F-16. The Ministry plans to award the $40M contract to the lucky company by 2018, and is looking forward to induct its 100 new planes into the JASDF by 2030.
At least four overseas manufacturers and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries have put forth proposals for the new next-generation fighter. The last is a special point of pride, as under the supervision of the Defense Ministry’s Acquisition, Technology & Logistics Agency (ATLA), Mitsubishi has assembled a working prototype of a domestically-built stealth fighter, originally called the Advanced Technology Demonstrator – X (ATD-X), and now the X-2 Shinshin. The prototype jet has already completed a successful test flight last April 22, and while further information on its abilities especially its stealth capacity is yet classified, its performance as an aircraft has been promising so far, calling for continued testing until 2018.
Other aircraft put forward for the F-3 Program, as listed by defenseindustrydaily.com were three American: Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II and the Boeing F-15J Kai Eagle or F/A-18Ei Super Hornet; and two European: The Eurofighter Typhoon and the Saab JAS-39 Gripen NG. Japan would have easily settled for having Lockheed Martin’s F-22J- EX Raptor, the same mainline fighter jet of the US Air Force; but production has been ceased since 2011, and the Pentagon remained steadfast in its directive that the Raptor would exclusively be used only by America.
Whatever the outcome, Japan seems set to power up its airborne arsenal, especially as China too has been busy pushing its own warplane development with the Chengdu J-20 stealth fighter.
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