Japan hedges its bets on Lockheed Martin’s F-35 fighter
By Rajiv Singh | 23 Nov 2009
Tokyo: The Japanese ministry of defence has selected the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning-II as its next mainstay fighter jet but will sign a contract for 40 of these 'high-tech' fighters only in 2011, in order to ensure that the much-talked about stealth jet actually delivers on its performance parameters.
Japanese agency reports say the defence ministry will seek fiscal allocation only in the 2011 budget for the purchase of 40 of these advanced 'stealth' fighter jets.
The Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II is a fifth-generation, single-seat, single-engine, stealth, multirole fighter that, currently, is estimated to cost 9 yen billion ($101 million) each.
According to a Kyodo news agency report, the ministry will launch a full acquisition process in December 2010, but make budgetary requests for the stealth plane only in the fiscal 2011 budget. This is so, for there is a view in the government that contracts should not be finalised until fiscal 2012, by when the jet's actual capabilities, as against stated capabilities, should be evident.
The F-35 will begin extensive flight testing only in 2010. So far, it has reportedly completed a mere three per cent of its total flight tests.
The F-35 is being jointly developed by the United States, Britain, Australia and other countries. Lockheed Martin is the lead contractor for the project, assembling the final product from portions manufactured by various contractors.