For Japan the question vis-a-vis the F-3 is one of them wanting to develop something that is 'their own' and not of collaboration. There are plenty of nations including the US with whom they have a security treaty and/or long standing defense industrial relationships no less that are willing to cooperate. Japan has also flirted with the idea of doing a hybrid development project where there is significant outside technical assistance through which they can field a better, and more affordable F-3. This option is also on the table. In fact just recently they floated an RFI to the international market asking for information.
If they do decide to go it alone, then strategic independence vis-a-vis 5th generation technology will be the driving force and not cost. A cooperation with India won't fit that construct. If they decide to open the program up for international participation they will have plenty of options including companies and design teams with whom they have long standing cooperative agreements. Then there are also advantages associated with sharing and interoperability vis a vis their F-15's and F-35's already involved in licensed production. Boeing, Lockheed Martin emerge as early rivals for Japan's fighter contest ; JDW/July16
Boeing and Lockheed Martin have confirmed their interest in pursuing the Japan Air Self-Defense Force (JASDF) requirement to replace its Mitsubishi F-2 multirole fighter aircraft.
Speaking to IHS Jane's on 19 July, the US corporations said that they will aim to leverage their significant respective footprints in Japan in bidding for a programme, which could be worth about USD20 billion.
The Japanese Ministry of Defence (MoD) has recently issued a request for information (RfI) and has said it expects to make a decision regarding the JASDF's "future fighter aircraft" by fiscal year 2018, which commences April 2018.
The F-2 was produced in the 2000s in a collaboration programme between Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) and Lockheed Martin and is expected to be retired from about 2027.A spokesperson from Boeing told IHS Jane's that the company was in the process of reviewing the F-2 replacement requirements. The spokesperson added that Boeing is "constantly looking for ways to grow [its] relationships and increase our presence in Japan, and are open to discussions with the customer to see how we can help meet their security needs".
A spokesperson from Lockheed Martin said, "Japan is seeking information from a variety of potential industry partners and we are certainly interested in another potential opportunity to bolster our long-standing partnership with Japan." The spokesperson added, "We are proud of our successful partnerships with Japan on the F-35 programme and MHI on the F-2 programme. We look forward to learning more about Japan's plans as discussions progress."
The RfI was issued in June to international combat aircraft manufacturers as part of a study into jet fighter technologies. The RfI closed earlier in July, with the companies - also likely to include Eurofighter and Saab - expected to present their information by the end of August.
The RfI is intended to support consideration of available combat aircraft as well as gauge international companies' willingness to participate in a collaborative programme as the MoD decides whether to develop the F-2 replacement indigenously or to enter a joint development programme with a foreign firm based on an existing fighter aircraft design. An import programme, followed by licenced production in Japan, is also a possibility as is the further development of Japan's experimental X-2 fighter aircraft, a prototype of which first flew in April 2016.
Production of the F-2 ended in September 2011, after the manufacture of about 90 aircraft. The MoD has said that no decisions have been made about how many replacement aircraft will be required, although up to 200 units is possible.
Given the long-standing and strong strategic, diplomatic, industrial, and military ties between Japan and the United States it seems probable that either Boeing or Lockheed Martin will be selected by Japan to partner on the programme to replace the F-2.
In October 2015 Boeing was selected by the Japan MoD to supply its KC-46A Pegasus aircraft to meet the JASDF's KC-X requirement for additional air-to-air refuelling and transport capability. The Foreign Military Sale is worth about USD520 million and will be supported by Boeing's extensive Japanese partnership network.
Boeing has teamings with about 65 Japanese companies. These ties have been forged in a number of major local production programmes including those to build F-15J/DJ Eagles, CH-47 Chinook helicopters, and AH-64DJP Apache attack helicopters.
Lockheed Martin has built up a similar network of industrial partnerships based on links with both Tier 1 manufacturers such as MHI and Tier 2/3 suppliers. The US corporation now describes Japan as its biggest international defence market, with a list of sales of major platforms many of which have been built in Japan. These include the F-35 fighter aircraft, which Japan ordered in 2012, the Aegis combat system, P-3 Orion maritime patrol aircraft, the Patriot Advanced Capability-3 interceptor and the MK 41 Vertical Launching System.