0540 GMT March 18, 2019
Lockheed discussed the deal with Japanese officials and will make its formal offer after receiving approval from the US government to sell Japan the sensitive military technology, Reuters reported on Friday, citing two direct sources who have knowledge of the talks, presstv.com reported.
If the White House agrees to Lockheed Martin’s plans to sell highly classified aircraft designs and software to Japan, it would be a sign of how far US President Donald Trump would be willing to go to expand the sales of American military-related goods and services.
The proposed aircraft design “would combine the F-22 and F-35 and could be superior to both of them,” said one of the sources, as quoted by Reuters on Friday.
Japan’s air force currently flies the F-15J, based on the Boeing F-15; and the F-2, based on the Lockheed Martin F-16. Both designs are decades old.
The F-2, which entered service in 2000, was built jointly by Mitsubishi Heavy and Lockheed Martin.
Japan, which is already buying the F-35 stealth aircraft to modernize its inventory, also wants to seek access to advanced technology to modernize its own domestic aircraft technology.
“We are considering domestic development, joint development, and the possibility of improving existing aircraft performance, but we have not yet come to any decision,” a Ministry of Defense spokesman said on Friday.
Mitsubishi Heavy Industries tested a prototype stealth jet in 2016 that cost the Japanese government $350 million to develop.
The Japanese government in March issued a third request for information (RFI) to foreign defense companies and sent a separate document outlining its requirements in more detail to the British and US governments.
In addition to a proposal from Lockheed, Japan is hoping for responses from Boeing Co, which makes the F/A-18 Super Hornet multirole fighter, and BAE Systems Plc, which is part of the consortium that built the Eurofighter Typhoon high-altitude interceptor.
“We look forward to exploring options for Japan’s F-2 replacement fighter in cooperation with both the Japanese and US governments. Our leadership and experience in fifth-generation aircraft can be leveraged to cost-effectively provide capabilities to meet Japan’s future security needs,” a Lockheed Martin spokeswoman said.