The Japanese defense ministry has proposed to launch Future Fighter development in the fiscal year beginning in April 2020, and said it should proceed even if a hoped-for international partnership cannot be arranged.

The ministry’s wording and financial requests imply, but do not quite specify, that it is seeking commencement of full-scale development, the point at which resources would be mobilized and the country became committed to creating the new combat-aircraft type.

The government said in December 2018 it aimed to proceed with an international program under Japanese leadership to develop the Future Fighter. It wanted to launch the program sometime in fiscal 2019-23. The new type is intended to replace Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) F-2 fighters in the 2030s.

Mitsubishi F-2 fighters currently make up 5.8% of Japan's in-service defense aircraft.

 

The main obvious candidates for cooperation are Britain and, together, Germany, France and Spain. Those countries have nascent fighter programs with requirement timescales similar to Japan’s. 

But there is no sign that negotiations have progressed anywhere near as far as would be needed to begin full-scale development in the coming Japanese fiscal year—if indeed that is what the ministry means when it speaks of launching development. Clarification from the ministry was not immediately available.

This is an abbreviated version of an article that appeared in Aviation Week & Space Technology by Bradley Perrett.