We continually deny the ability to export the F-22 Raptor, and Japan is getting tired of trying to get them:
Japan plans to develop a prototype of an advanced fighter jet in the hope it will spur the United States to review a ban on selling F-22 fighters, a news report said Tuesday.
But an official of the Defense Ministry said no decision has been reached.
Japan’s largest daily, The Yomiuri, said the Defense Ministry plans to request a budget for the next year to build the test model of a stealth fighter jet.
We want to keep the F-22’s advanced technology out of anyone else’s hands, even those of close allies. This makes sense in a lot of ways, but not everyone is pleased, as the USA Today reports:
Japan may hold key to F-22’s future, thousands of jobs:
The F-22 program, estimated at $70 billion, is among the largest for Lockheed Martin Corp, bringing in hundreds of millions of dollars a year. Boeing produces the plane’s wings, fuselage and other component systems. Pratt and Whitney and other contractors are also involved.
But the Air Force’s about-face on how many of the fighters it will buy has put the program in deep jeopardy — after originally saying it would purchase 750 of the planes, the Air Force has cut that number down to 183.
According to a Congressional Research Service report released last month, Lockheed employs 3,351 F-22 workers at plants in Marietta, Ga.; Fort Worth; and Palmdale, Calif.
The report notes that building F-22s for Japan “is one way to keep the F-22 production line running” and adds that, “promoting employment in the aerospace sector is beneficial to the U.S. economy.”
China’s growing military capability may become an important factor in the F-22 story. The increasing size and capability of China’s air force may convince enough decision makers to either build more US F-22s or to sell some to Japan in hopes that the move will not only bolster the alliance between Japan and the US but will provide additional leverage against the Chinese.
Meanwhile, one of the greatest benefits of the high-cost F-22s may be the ‘Plan B’ move of upgrading many older planes with AESA (Active Electronically Scanned Array) radars. I noted the plans to upgrade F/A-18s with APG-79s a while back in Making the Super Hornet a two-fisted fighter and also pointed out that the F-16 Block 60s going to the United Arab Emirates will mount the APG-80 AESA radar.
Honestly, I think this will end up being a no-brainer. The cost of upgrading good planes (F-16, F-15, F-18) with AESA outweigh the cost of buying additional great planes (F-22, F-35). And that’s assuming the great planes are actually all that “great”. The risk will be that the arguments for upgrading older planes with AESA may convince many that an F-15 with AESA is a Raptor replacement. It isn’t Cost-wise it makes sense, but don’t get tricked into thinking that it’s the long-term answer.
F-22’s on point, 15s and 16s doing the dirty work. Eventually, F-35s will displace many of the 15s and 16s, but the AESA option for existing airframes with a lot of life left in them is going to make too much sense to pass up in the short- and mid-term.
I suspect that upgrading Japanese planes similarly will be a compromise that both sides can agree to, and also that Raptors may eventually find their way into the Japanese air force for a number of reasons, some of which may actually have to do with military need.