The Asahi Shimbun is reporting that Japan is abandoning plans to develop a new domestically designed fighter. The newspaper quotes Defense Ministry officials as saying that Tokyo has been put off by the huge costs and engineering challenges of building an indigenous war plane.
Asahi said defense planners had been working on three possible options for the existing F-2 Japanese fighter that’s due to be retired around 2030. The options reportedly involved fully developing the next-generation fighter jet domestically, developing it jointly with other nations, or extending the the F-2 operational life through technology modifications.
The Mitsubishi F-2 is a multirole fighter derived from the General Dynamics F-16 Fighting Falcon, which is manufactured by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and Lockheed Martin for the Japan Air Self-Defense Force.
The Japanese government is under pressure to replace the F-2 with a better plane because of China and Russia’s growing capabilities in the region.
But various ministries, including the Finance Ministry, have weighed in on the project’s cost implications, according to Asahi. Developing advanced avionics, a technology issue that has caused problems for Japanese defense contractors in the past, also appears to have figured in the move to scrap the project.
Because of this, Asahi quotes sources as saying the Defense Ministry won’t seek funding for domestic development of a next-generation fighter jet when requests are drawn up this summer for the agency’s fiscal 2019 budget.
Tokyo is also expected to sound out Washington as early as this week on possible joint development of a next-generation fighter jet, according to Asahi.