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Japan picks Lockheed to support its next-generation F-X fighter program

Artist's impression of the Japanese F-X fighter
Japan MoD file photo

Japan’s defense ministry confirmed on Friday it selected Lockheed Martin to support the development of the country’s locally-developed next-generation fighter jet.

The selection of an outside defense contractor comes less than two months after Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) emerged as the lead for the development of a fighter aircraft that would help Japan keep up with China’s advances in aircraft technology.

Japan’s defense ministry said it spent the past year working with Boeing, BAE Systems and Lockheed Martin to find the best fit. It ultimately chose Lockheed because of the company’s experience with fifth-generation aircraft. Lockheed will provide support with mission system integration, stealth technologies and digital design work, Japan said.

It is worth noting that Japan is already buying over 100 F-35 stealth fighters from Lockheed Martin.

Japan envisions its own future stealth aircraft as an air-superiority fighter that will emerge as a prototype in 2024 and take to the skies for the first time in 2028. The country hopes to start full production in 2031.

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

According to first reports, the F-X will support manned unmanned teaming with a radar capable of serving as a directed-energy weapon using microwaves for missile defense. Its internal weapons bay is expected to be capable of fitting six weapons, similarly to the US Air Force’s F-22 Raptor.

The F-X will take over the role of the F-2 multirole fighter