Maj. Gen. Masahito Monma of the Japan Air Self-Defense Force will head the office, said the defense ministry’s purchasing organization, the Acquisition, Technology and Logistics Agency.
“For now, we want to firmly decide on a partner by the end of this year,” Defense Minister Taro Kono told reporters.
Japan is looking at how it could cooperate with the proposed British Tempest program, Kono said, adding “The U.S. is becoming important from the viewpoint of interoperability.”
Although Kono did not mention the point, the choice between the two countries is also a choice between the alternative program structures and the burden on the Japanese budget.
Working in the Tempest program would amount to some degree of joint development and therefore sharing costs with other governments. (Britain has invited countries other than Japan to join.) But, since there is no prospective collaborative fighter program in the U.S., working with that country would mean simply contracting companies there to support development and perhaps buying some off-the-shelf U.S. systems, such as a data link.
Lockheed Martin and, reportedly, Boeing are the alternative contenders on the U.S. side. The leading British company would be BAE Systems.
The Nikkei newspaper reported in March that Japan had decided to work mainly with U.S. partners in developing the NGF, with only limited technical cooperation with Britain. It cited no sources. Kono is giving no hints at any such decision.
Japan wants to work on the concept design of the NGF until the end of fiscal 2022. That implies that full-scale development will begin in fiscal 2023. Entry into service is due in the mid-2030s.
The government has not announced the timing of the setting up of the project office, but a reporter mentioned April 1 as the date at Kono’s press conference. The minister did not correct this, in effect confirming it.
The office will have 30 people, Jiji news agency reported.
Mitsubishi Heavy Industries is likely to take the leading role in developing and building the NGF.
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