Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Japan defense: F-35 sure candidate?

The Defense Agency plans to select new multipurpose jet
fighters to function as both interceptors and
fighter-bombers because of disappointment over the F-2
fighter's performance and cost, government sources said

The agency will select the new fighters during the
implementation of the next midterm defense buildup plan,
set for fiscal 2005 through 2009, to make up the
shortfall in F-2 fighter-bombers--called
support-fighters in the Air Self-Defense Force's

The agency initially planned to buy about 130 F-2 jets
but the number will now be limited to about 100.
Procurement of F-2 jets will be halted within the next
three years because, despite a high price tag, the
aircraft's performance has not met expectations. The
agency also plans to phase out aging F-4 Phantom
fighters, and replace them with the new multipurpose

Following the change in policy, the agency predicted the
number of ASDF jet fighters would be insufficient and
air defense capability limited, and so decided to
procure a new type of fighter. Currently, there are two
categories of ASDF jet fighters--interceptors to attack
enemy aircraft and support-fighters to attack ground and
sea targets.

The agency plans to abolish the categorization and
increase the percentage of multipurpose jet fighters,
making the ASDF's air combat units more operationally

The next midterm defense buildup plan originally did not
include new jet fighters, but the agency moved the
schedule forward.

Candidates for the new jets include the F-35 joint
strike fighter being developed jointly by 11 countries,
including the United States, Britain, Italy and the
Netherlands, and the U.S. F-15 Strike Eagle.

As of the end of March, the ASDF had 203 F-15
interceptors, 92 F-4 fighters, 49 F-2 support-fighters
and 23 F-1 fighters. In principle, the agency possesses
three types of jet fighters.

However, as F-1 fighters are being replaced by F-2 jets,
there are currently four types of jet fighters in
service. All F-1 fighters are scheduled to be retired by
the end of fiscal 2005.

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