Pentagon hails Japan's F-35 order
The Pentagon office that runs the Lockheed Martin Corp on Monday hailed news that Japan had selected the F-35 as its next generation fighter and said it would help strengthen partnerships with Japan.
"The F-35 Program Office looks forward to strengthening partnerships with Japan, and contributing to enhanced security throughout the Asia Pacific region," the office said in a statement after Japan announced its decision.
Japan is the second country besides Israel to order the F-35 under the U.S. government's foreign military sales program. Lockheed is developing three variants of the radar-evading fighter for the United States and eight partner countries: Britain, Italy, Netherlands, Turkey, Canada, Australia, Denmark and Norway, which have contributed to its development cost.
The F-35 program office said Japan's requirement was for 40-50 new fighters, and the initial letter of agreement will include four conventional takeoff and landing (CTOL) aircraft to be delivered in 2016 with an eighth batch of low-rate initial production planes.
The F-35 will be operated in the Asia Pacific region by U.S. forces, as well as the Royal Australian Air Force, Japan and partner nations involved in multinational military operations.
Japan's selection of the F-35 will allow Japan's air force to operate with the United States and other partner nations, ensuring the future of cooperative deterrence and regional security, the Pentagon office said.
Japan has picked Lockheed Martin Corp's F-35 Joint Strike Fighter as its next-generation mainstay fighter, choosing the radar-evading plane ahead of Boeing's F/A-18 and the Eurofighter Typhoon.
Lockheed is developing the F-35 for the U.S. military and eight international partners at a projected cost of more than $382 billion, making it the Pentagon's most expensive weapons program. Following are facts about the program:
* Lockheed and subcontractors Northrop Grumman Corp and BAE Systems are developing three variants of the plane, a conventional takeoff and landing (CTOL) model for the Air Force; a short takeoff, vertical landing (STOVL) variant for the U.S. Marine Corps and Italy; and one with wider wings for the Navy to use on aircraft carriers.
* The F-35 fighter jet is 42 percent built of composite materials. The plane is just over 50 ft long and can travel at a speed of Mach 1.6. The variants have a range of up to 900 to 1,200 nautical miles and carry 15,000 to 18,000 pounds (6,800-8,164 kg) of weapons.
* The foreign partners on the program are Britain, Canada, Norway, Denmark, the Netherlands, Turkey, Italy and Australia.
* Lockheed began negotiations on December 8 with the U.S. Defense Department for a fifth batch of 30 low-rate production airplanes, after agreeing for the first time to bear half the cost of an agreed-upon number of design changes required because the plane is already being produced while testing is still continuing.
* The F-35's engine is built by the Pratt & Whitney unit of United Technologies Corp. Earlier this month, General Electric and Rolls-Royce dropped their effort to build an alternate engine for the F-35, citing continued uncertainty in the program development and production schedules.
* Israel, the first foreign military sales customer, signed a $2.75 billion preliminary agreement in October 2010 to buy 19 F-35s, with an option for one more. That deal is expected to be finalized in the next few weeks.
Source: WASHINGTON, 22 December 2011 - Reporting By Andrea Shalal-Esa / Editing by Alex Richardson (Reuters)
Photo: Japan Defence Air Force F-35 (Photo by Lockheed)