Japan, turned down in its
efforts to buy the U.S. F-22, is planning to spend half a billion dollars to
develop its own stealthy fighter. Maybe. Japan is eager to find a modern
fighter to replace its 118 F-4 and 178 F-15 aircraft. With China and Russia
putting more new fighters into service, Japan sees a threat. The U.S. F-35 is
not the solution, and the Eurofighter and Rafle have not made the cut either.
Japan has built its own fighters recently. In the
1990s, it designed and built a modified version of the U.S. F-16. That proved
to be a financial disaster, with each of the 22 ton F-2s cost $120 million.
While a bit larger, and somewhat more capable, than contemporary F-16s, the
cost was about four times as much. Only 98 were built, rather than the 141
originally planned. The aircraft entered service seven years ago.
A stealthy "F-3" would still require a lot of
American technology. Japan builds fighter jet engines under license, and could
probably get licenses to enough of that technology so that it could design an
engine for its new fighter. Japan is already a leader in developing and
manufacturing aircraft electronics. But
a major problem remains the high costs of developing and building weapons
inside Japan (where wage and benefits costs are quite high).