Japan’s F-22 dream a $12.5 billion nightmare?

F-22 over Kadena.jpg

What price a dream? For Japan, it may be $12.5 billion for the fighter that it most covets.

It appears than an export model of the Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor for Japan could cost $250 million apiece. Reuters reports that the price was revealed in a letter that US Senator Daniel Inouye, who heads the Senate Appropriations Committee and supports the fighter’s sale, sent to Japan’s ambassador to the USA and US Defense Secretary Robert Gates.

This includes the cost of developing an export model of the F-22, which is not available for export in its current form due to its highly sensitive equipment. It assumes that production would take place five years after a contract, with deliveries to begin in seven to nine years.

Japan has said in the past that it wants to buy 50 fighters as part of its F-X requirement, and the total bill if it gets its hand on the Raptor could come up to a whopping $12.5 billion. Even if it goes for half that number, it would still amount to $6 billion. That is a lot of money.

The unit cost is much higher than the $150 million that the USAF paid for each aircraft in the last batch of F-22s that it ordered. Gates announced in April that the Pentagon would halt the production of the Raptor at 187 airplanes after ordering four more in fiscal 2009, which ends 30 September.

So I repeat what I said in an earlier – it makes little sense for the Japanese to spend so much on a tuned down Raptor when it would be better value to get something else. Boeing’s F-15 Silent Eagle and F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, Eurofighter Typhoon and eventually the Lockheed Martin F-35 would probably be better buys than a fighter that has been stripped away of the features that actually make it special.

But then again, very little makes sense when it comes to Japan’s military procurement policy.

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10 Responses to Japan’s F-22 dream a $12.5 billion nightmare?

  1. Dave 10 June, 2009 at 12:00 pm #

    Of course, it could very well be that even a detuned Raptor is grossly superior to the everything on your list barring the F-35. Even then the Raptor has grossly superior supersonic performance compared to the JSF. Mind you, I’m not advocating export of the Raptor – frankly, I’m very much against it.

  2. Siva Govindasamy 10 June, 2009 at 12:07 pm #

    Yep, that is true. But removing the stealth technology, which is what the House really appears to be jumpy about, would take away most of its advantages. The question facing a lot of the fellas in Japan is, if we take away the F-35 for now due to uncertainties over its delivery schedules, what is the next best option?

  3. Dave 10 June, 2009 at 2:31 pm #

    If it’s the stealth that’s the issue, that’s something else. Mind you most of the stealth comes from the shape of the jet. However, it’s my understanding that the non-exportability has more to do with how the avionics are integrated onboard the jet. Basically, removing classified features is a pain because of the way the jet’s systems were put together. I’ll ask the F-22 SPO guys next week about it hopefully.

    If you’re barring the F-35. I would have to pick between the F-15SE or the F/A-18e/F. I tend to lean towards the Super Hornet mainly because its a known quantity with solid backing from the USN.

    The Silent Eagle is exaggerating it’s stealthy qualities- not my assessment, but that of friend who flies the F-22. Additionally, the developmental costs and timeline of this new variant are unknown – it could take far longer to reach maturity than the F-35. However, the technologies Boeing is proposing do make it kinda interesting.

    The Typhoon is very expensive and has a mechanically scanned radar. Frankly, I’ve never been that impressed by this plane especially with the way Europeans have been marketing it.

    So, short answer: Block II Super Hornet.

  4. Siva Govindasamy 10 June, 2009 at 2:46 pm #

    From what I understand, the Silent Eagle could cost up to $100 million. The F-35′s price tag is about $120 million. The F-22 is costing the USAF $150 million, while the F/A-18E/F was $54 during the last multi-year procurement. Despite what Boeing may say, the F-15SE is not a real stealth aircraft. I would agree with you on F/A-18E/F, except for the fact that the Japanese already operate older F-15s and they really don’t like change.

  5. Dave 10 June, 2009 at 4:33 pm #

    Very true… however, the F-22, F-35, or any other planes they get would also be a change. I, personally, hope the Japanese don’t get the Raptor. Even if the Obey Amendment is repealed, there is the still the DOD and State Department that they’d have to get through. Hopefully, if it gets to that stage, Gates or someone else can block any such deal. I wonder how big of a contribution to Daniel Inouye’s campaign the Japanese made?

    It’s true the F-35 is running at around 120 mil per jet right now, but that price will drop rapidly after the production line ramps up. However, while Boeing’s unit cost is estimated at 100 million dollars or so, how much will development cost? You can bet they’ll ask for Japanese government funding similar to how the UAE essentially paid for the Block 60 F-16E/F development costs.

    The Hornet is the cheapest and offers the most “bang for the buck”.

  6. keesje 10 June, 2009 at 7:12 pm #

    I think the Japanese are considering other options. Such a s home grown stealth with European weapon systems. They have to be able to defend themselves against the increasing numbers of new Flanker variants on the other side of the sea.


    They will fill in this requirement. With or without Lockheed Martin. LM is probably lobbying congress already..

  7. Airmen 11 June, 2009 at 3:01 pm #

    I think the Japanese know how do ops analyses – what threats they face, what capabilities they need to counter them. And if they’re willing to foot the bill to meet the requirements, I say they’re absolutely doing it right – unlike other countries’ budgeting priorities.

    They’re not buying fighters to counter today’s threats – Su-27/30s and the like; it’s PAK-FAs, J-XXs and who knows what else 20-30 years on down the road, i.e. F-22-class threats.

    What’s the F-35′s real advantage over the -22? Better avionics, networking capability? You can always retrofit avionics, but not flight performance…

    So Gates will now try to impose his view on the Japanese, just like he did with USAF. Do you think top USAF leadership really agrees with the 187 production cap at heart? They are probably more concerned with their jobs, after seeing what happened to the last two.

    What USAF really needs is leadership with the b*lls and temerity to speak what they really believe. Like that admiral who long ago testified in Congress, that no amount of thrust would ever turn the F-111B into a fighter. That killed his career of course, but it saved the Navy from getting a turkey of an airplane that stemmed from another SecDef’s “vision”… but that’s a different story.

  8. Siva Govindasamy 11 June, 2009 at 3:10 pm #

    That was vice-admiral Thomas F. Connolly and you can read his obit here http://www.nytimes.com/1996/06/09/us/thomas-connolly-86-top-gun-admiral-dies.html.

    This deviates a little from the topic, but is the F-35 then going to be a monumental mistake as well?

    My worry about ending the F-22 production is that the USAF and its allies could come to a day when we face a threat that only an aircraft like that can counter, and they are found wanting.

  9. Dave 12 June, 2009 at 9:11 am #

    I doubt that situation will arise. A lot of this boils down to economics, technical know-how, and training. The Russians have been saying for years their 5th generation jet is going fly “this year” and it never materializes. Also, what does fifth generation mean to the Russians? Do they mean aerodynamic performance alone, or are they taking into account stealth and avionics?

    Certainly, nothing we’ve seen thus far suggests that they have anywhere near developing the comparable avionics systems or a production stealth airframe. I’m not disputing they might be able design a stealth plane, I’m questioning their ability to produce it with their manufacturing technology. The Chinese have never really produced new technology on their own in recent history and I doubt they have the technical capability to develop a 5th generation machine on their own.

    Who else does that leave as a potential peer level threat? No one really.

    Now, lets look at numbers. Say we have just 1500 F-35 in total. There is no force on Earth that can match that. And despite what the naysayers have to say, having spoken to the test pilot and program manager, I have every confidence the F-35 is going be a stellar performer. Jon Beesley, the Chief test pilot for the F-35 flat out told me that the JSF matches the F-22 in subsonic performance.

    Now combined with our other resources which every seems to neglect to mention i.e. or logical system (global reach which no one else has), ISR capabilities (including satellites, AWACS, JSTARS etc), networking et al. Really there is no peer level threat that will arise in the next 20 to 30 years who has prayer at matching that. Not to mention the capabilities offered by the USN and the other services in addition to the USAF.

    Frankly, the idea that our civilization will collapse with out the F-22 is ridiculous. There are always other means by which the military can accomplish a given objective- it happens everyday when political leaders tell the combatant commander “no, find another way”.

  10. leopardas1@live.com.au 20 June, 2009 at 11:54 am #

    It is not just japan that faces a substantial implied threat from communist china, australia and every other country in this region is having to respond to chinas huge military capability buildup, so unless america has decided not to honour its treaties and asssurances to us and other countries and withdraw from this region then the f22 may well be absolutly necessary to counterbalance chinas new regional air superiority rather than the russian one it was initially designed to cope with.
    Having read a number of highly detailed analyses of the f35 and the f22, my impression is this, the f35 has a definite niche and that is, when the f22s have established almost complete air superiority, and knocked out most of the existing ground based antiaircraft systems

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