Waiting for nothing

Japan has finally confirmed what everyone figured would happen anyway – it has delayed its F-X competition in order to continue lobbying the USA for information on the Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor.

Japan should forget about the Raptor

It is silly, though. The Japan Air Self Defense Force’s capability will keep dropping, and there is no guarantee that Washington would allow the Raptor to be exported. It would be far better for the Japanese to get on with the programme and select another fighter. Yet, they stubbornly wait for the US Congress to change its mind when there are no clear indications that this would happen in the near future.

This is symptomatic of the malaise that afflicts the country’s military procurement policy. A gradual year-by-year decision-making process increases the cost to the Japanese taxpayer and hardly benefits the service, and is clear evidence of an acute lack of forward planning. That is probably also why it did not join the Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter programme when it had the opportunity.

Australia, on the other hand, knows that its future lies with the F-35, which the USA is willing to export. It also realises that the aircraft’s delivery could be delayed from the target of 2015. It may be unhappy about this, but at least it is doing something about it. Canberra ordered 24 Boeing F/A-18E/Fs to plug the gap between the retirement of its fleet of General Dynamics F-111s and the induction of the F-35.

Japan can teach the world many things, but its bureaucrats at the defence ministry in Tokyo could learn a thing or two from their Australian counterparts. They should forget about the F-22 and simply order the F-35.

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