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Mitsubishi Heavy to lead Japan’s F-X aircraft development program

Illustration: JASDF file photo of the F-35A aircraft

Japan’s defense ministry announced on Friday it had selected Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) to lead the development of the country’s next-generation fighter aircraft.

The ministry did not disclose the value of the awarded contract but the overall F-X fighter development program is expected to cost around $40 billion. Japan plans to start flying the new fighter before 2040 in a bid to counter the evolving Chinese aircraft.

The selection of MHI for the project was an expected one as it was the only known bidder in the program. International companies that had expressed interest in the program included Lockheed Martin, Boeing and BAE Systems.

Lockheed Martin is already delivering to Japan the F-35A and F-35B fifth-generation fighter that is replacing the old F-4 Phantom II flown by the Japan Air Self Defense Force (JASDF). Boeing is working with Mitsubishi on the upgrade of Japan’s 200-strong F-15J Eagle interceptor fleet as part of a larger $4.5 billion modernization program.

The future F-X is envisioned as a replacement for the F-2 multirole fighter Mitsubishi Heavy Industries manufactured in cooperation with Lockheed Martin.