Asian countries will look closely at Pentagon procurement plans

Following US defence secretary Robert Gates’ plans to overhaul his country’s military procurement process, it is clear that there will be some winners and losers in Asia.

Japan suffered the biggest setback, given that the Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor that it covets so much will not be produced beyond the 187 on order. It is unlikely that the US Congress will give its nod for the fifth-generation stealth fighter to be exported.

Countries that are keen on the Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter will be happier. The US has increased its focus on the programme and will now buy 30 aircraft in 2010, up from 14 this year. Japan is now likely to turn its attention to the F-35, while several others like Australia, Singapore and South Korea will be engaged.

Without any major export orders, Boeing’s C-17 transport aircraft production line is likely to end as Washington has decided not to buy any more of the type. India and Australia remain potential customers, but the cost is likely to be higher than expected.

Boeing probably suffered the most in the reassessment, but the company received a minor boost when the US government said that it would buy 30 F/A-18E/Fs in 2010, up from a previous plan to buy only 18. The type is in contention in India and Japan, and could be offered to countries like Malaysia and Indonesia.

Unmanned aerial vehicles like the Predator and Reaper will also be in greater demand across the region, in line with Washington’s increased focus on the technology.

Gates’ announcement is bound to lead to one thing – expect business development honchos from the various US military contractors to spend more time in Asia as they come under pressure to diversify their companies’ revenue streams.

Meanwhile, here is a video of the F-22 Raptor on an exercise in Kadena, Japan, earlier this year. It looks increasingly like the only time the fighter will be on Japanese soil is when it is flying in USAF colours!

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