For Japan, the F-35 delivers more than a fighter capable of facing off head-to-head with the latest Chinese and Russian-made adversaries. It also provides access to stealth and other next-generation (NGEN) capabilities that Japan’s defense contractors need to advance development of their own NGEN fighter.…There is little doubt that buying the F-35 will help close the gap between Japan’s R&D program and established NGEN fighter programs abroad. With time, Japan’s skilled workforce and manufacturing capabilities probably are sufficient to overcome the rest.
The very likely inclusion of MHI in the project raises the possibility that the F-35s that Japan will purchase may cost 2 times more than an off-the-shelf unit will. Clearly, considerations relating to the development of Japan’s own military industrial base are driving the policy decisions in this particular case, more than perhaps any appreciated need for a large number of F-35As themselves.
Technological insights gained from the manufacture of components related to low-observability will go into Mitsubishi Heavy Industry’s ongoing ATD-X ”F-3″ development (the technology demonstrator scheduled to be tested in 2014), which raises the possibility for an indigenous Japanese fighter to be deployed in the late 2020s to replace the Mitsubishi F-2s and F-15Js. Not only is MHI also in the process of constructing its own technology demonstrator, but IHI reportedly has its own plans to develop a technology-demonstrator engine capable of generating 15 metric tons of thrust – two of which could easily power an airframe worthy of replacing the F-15Js. The linkage between these plans, and the F-35 manufacture, is quite clear. It would also seem to fit broadly within the plans of the MOD, and Japanese defense industry, identified by Bradley Perret at Aviation Week, to lay the groundwork for the acquisition of technologies from domestic and international sources that would be necessary for an indigenous Japanese fighter to be assembled, if necessary.
Perhaps as likely (if not more likely), these technologies, plus the industrial “threat” of Japan developing its own indigenous fighter, could be used as leverage/justification for gaining a greater participating share in any future cross-national development/manufacturing project. Japan’s F-XX fighter procurement will in a few years start to garner greater attention…
It's interesting to consider if current US strategy considers the "informal" Japanese acquisition of US stealth technology a desirable state of affairs.
The reality is that producing competitive NGEN fighters probably requires far more funding than Japanese policymakers forecast.As a result, Japan will need to mirror the approaches used by other NGEN producers, including offsetting development costs with foreign exports. This is the only realistic business model which proves politically and economically viable for building a true NGEN fighter. Since Japan’s current laws prohibit the export of such a fighter, Tokyo therefore needs to relax or rewrite its export control restrictions. Japan’s recent moves in this direction increase the likelihood that the domestic legal barriers to exports will eventually disappear.
At the defense and security meeting, the government also traversed the thorny issue of lifting its long-standing weapons export ban, with Shinichi Kitaoka, head of the government panel launched by Abe, stating that the ban should be lifted.Kitaoka is a former Japanese ambassador to the United Nations and has, of late, served as a key adviser to Abe and is a proponent of reinterpreting Japan's war-renouncing, pacifist Constitution to lift the self-imposed ban on the right to exercise collective self-defense, and as the deputy chairman of Abe's Advisory Panel on Reconstruction of the Legal Basis for Security, also wishes to see the embargo on weapons exports lifted.
The Abe administration never doubted that the parts for the F-35 would be excluded from the weapons export ban. In compiling the new statement explaining the exception, the administration came up with a new basic concept of "complying with the United Nations Charter."The export of Japanese-made parts will be allowed only to those nations that abide by the objectives and principles of the U.N. Charter.