Boeing willing to let Japan develop new deriviative of F/A-18

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Boeing, which is proposing the F/A-18E/F for Japan's forthcoming FX fighter competition, would be willing to let the nation develop its manufacturing capability through the joint development of a new derivative of the Super Hornet.

If Japan wanted to further develop the Super Hornet, by coming up with a new derivative, then Boeing would respond positively, says Defense, Space and Security vice-president for international business development Mark Kronenberg.

"We would want to come up with a package that helps them with their aspirations," he adds.

Japan has yet to issue a request for proposals for the FX competition, but plans to buy 40-50 fighters to replace some of its McDonnell Douglas F-4s.

boeing f/a-18 super hornet, boeing
 © Boeing

In the early 1990s, Lockheed Martin worked with Japanese industry to develop the Mitsubishi F-2, a derivative of its F-16, but US law-makers at the time blocked it from transferring some technology.

But Kronenberg says technology transfer, with regards to Japan, is less of an issue today.

In the 1980s and early 1990s, Japan seemed to be "20ft tall", because the country's corporations were buying so many businesses overseas, but times have changed and US law-makers are now less wary of it, he says.

When asked if it is feasible to manufacture 40-50 fighters in Japan under licence, Kronenberg says: "It depends on how much you want to pay to get that new manufacturing capability. I think Japan is willing to pay." He adds that Tokyo's long-term objective is to have the technological and manufacturing capability to develop its own fighter.

Some industry observers predict that whichever company wins the FX competition is also likely to win in a subsequent FXX requirement. This is likely to seek over 100 fighters to replace some of Japan's older Boeing F-15s.

In a separate development, Japan's nearest neighbour South Korea announced in January that it is studying whether to develop an indigenous fighter.

Its government says that if it decides to proceed, completion of the first aircraft would be in 2021.

Boeing would also be interested in assisting Seoul with its KFX indigenous fighter programme "if it was part of a long-term path", says Kronenberg.

"We would rather partner in significant markets like Korea rather than compete," he says.

Maybe longer-term some F-15SE technology could be applied, he adds. The South Korean already operates F-15Ks.