JASDF video: goodies but oldies

My colleague Stephen Trimble of The Dew Line blog alerted methis morning to a good Friday video from Japan.

Pretty much every Japanese Air Self Defense Force aircraft shows up, notably thedevelopmental XC-2 transport. The only disappointment is that the XP-1 maritime patrol aircraft doesn’t make an appearance. Highlights are the F-4EJ Phantoms, as wellas XC-2 final approaches at 9:06 and 11:00.

Viewing this reminded me of the urgency the JASDF faces inupgrading its fighter fleet. Though a sentimental favorite, the F-4EJs areobsolete, and the F-2s and F-15Js are decidedly middle-aged – and I hatewriting that because these were cutting edge when I was a kid.

Bids to replace the F-4s are due this month. Aircraft in theF-X competition for 40-50 aircraft include the Boeing F/A-18E/F SuperHornet, Eurofighter Typhoon, and the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II. Japan wants the new planes by 2016, which couldbe a challenging timeframe for the F-35 however much Japan covets stealth.

F-X is a big deal, but the future F-XX competition toreplace over 200 F-15EJs will be a monster. The F-15 Silent Eagle and F-35 areobvious candidates, but is it possible Japan could take the plunge anddevelop a fighter based on what it learns from its ATD-X programme? Japanstill likes ATD-X, and intends to allocate (Y) 7.9 billion ($103million) to build an actual, flying aircraft. Big, limited production fighterprogrammes are wasteful and often result in aircraft of dubious capability, butthey’re great for jobs and prestige.

More intriguingly, could an unmanned system such as NorthropGrumman’s X-47B compete in F-XX? A large force of UCAVs would be cheaper tomaintain, there would be less training involved, and they would have the legsto hit targets deep in the Asian land mass.

I saw a statistic in the last few days that there are morecentenarians in Japanthan in the 48,500 member Japan Naval Self Defense Force. Demographics alonewill incline Japanto military capabilities that involve the fewest people possible. One’pilot’ in a bunker or AEW&C aircraft controlling eight or ten UCAVs is farmore efficient than having a pilot in each and every one. 

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