TOKYO (majirox news) — In the three-way dog fight between the Lockheed Martin F-35, Boeing’s Super Hornet, and the Eurofighter (made by a consortium of BAE, Finmeccanica and EADS) for selection as Japan’s next “FX” fighter, it’s likely that the F-35 has sent the Super Hornet and the Eurofighter spiraling down in flames.
Japan’s cabinet has settled on the F-35 despite its higher costs, because of its significantly superior performance, reported the Nikkei.
The F-35 doesn’t come cheap. Japan will be budgeting 55 billion yen for just four planes in the fiscal 2012 budget. Ultimately, Japan intends to buy 40 to 50 aircraft.
The US Air Force has already ordered 2,400 F-35s for $382 billion dollars in what has been called “the largest deal ever made by the Pentagon.” At present, the planes are five years late and 60 percent over budget. It has prompted Israel, which also ordered F-35s, to upgrade part of its fleet of F-16s instead.
“The big disadvantage is that because of the advanced technology, possible Japanese inputs will be by far the smallest of any of the three planes considered,” said Japan’s defense authorities. However, as one source puts it, “It will blow the socks off of any Chinese fighter on the books,” possibly referring to China’s still experimental J-20 stealth jet fighter.
In addition to its exceptional performance, the F-35 has highly advanced stealth capabilities. In comparison, China’s J-10 is widely thought to be a reverse-engineered Israeli Lavi jet, and while there are concerns that China’s J-20 stealth-fighter prototype uses technology gleaned from a shot-down U.S. F-117 stealth fighter, the F-35 ranks as one of the “stealthiest” fighters currently in the air.
Japan’s decision to purchase the F-35 can be seen in the context of the Asia-wide arms race that China has prompted. China’s moves to modernize its military and assert what it sees as justified territorial claims has set off a scramble throughout the entire East Asia to build up armaments.
The order books of Western manufacturers are bulging with new requests for jets, submarines, anti-missile weapons, and other advanced weaponry to counteract what many countries throughout East Asia perceive as the threat, whether real or imagined, posed by China.