The growing trend towards international joint-development of military aircraft is leading Japan to review its military export policies.
Japan's long-standing ban on the export of military equipment effectively stops local manufacturers from participating international programmes such as the Joint Strike Fighter. But many of the top programmes these days are multinational joint-development programmes. And Japan's current system of manufacturing aircraft under licence is proving to be too costly.
Mitsubishi Heavy Industries presently makes the F-2, an aircraft manufactured under licence as it is based on the Lockheed Martin F-16. The F-2 is seen here in this picture. The F-2 is incredibly expensive to produce, to the point that it would have actually been much cheaper if Japan had just bought F-16s from the USA.
Japan is about to embark on a new fighter competition, the FX programme, that aims to procure 40-50 fighters to replace Japan's ageing McDonnell Douglas F-4 fighters.
During my trip to Tokyo I met with officials from Japan's ministry of defence and executives from some of the local defence manufacturers. There is no doubt in my mind that Japan is about to embark on a major shift in government policy. The objective - Japanese involvement in joint-development of military aircraft for the international market.