Tokyo has yet to decide on its future international partner for the country’s ambitious FX Future Fighter programme to replace the Mitsubishi F-2.

“The [Japanese Ministry of Defense] is in discussion with the U.S. and the UK from the viewpoint of ensuring interoperability, cost effectiveness and technical reliability,” says Japan’s Acquisition, Technology & Logistics Agency (ATLA).

“We have been exploring the possibility of cooperation with these two countries.”

It adds that there is no decision on “specific policies including partner countries.”

ATLA confirms, however, that Tokyo will not develop a derivative of an existing fighter, but plans to develop an all new aircraft.

ATLA was responding to a query from FlightGlobal following a recent Nikkei Asian Review report that Tokyo is leaning towards working with the USA on the project.

According the Nikkei report, the UK offer would give Tokyo more options to update the aircraft – tentatively designated F-3 – as needed, and that this freedom has been an issue with the F-2, which is based on the Lockheed Martin F-16. As such, the report added that Tokyo will also foot most of the bill for research and development for the project.  

The UK Tempest future combat air system (FCAS) programme involves BAE Systems, Leonardo’s UK Arm, MBDA, Rolls-Royce, DE&S, Saab, and the Royal Air Force’s Rapid Capabilities Office.

US firms such as Lockheed Martin and Boeing have discussed the project with Tokyo. Media reports from Japan suggested that Lockheed pitched a hybrid of the F-35A and F-22, while Boeing’s offer was based on the F-15.

Some reports suggested that Northrop Grumman even pitched technology derived from its YF-23, which lost out to the F-22 in the USA’s Advanced Tactical Fighter competition.

Although Tokyo has yet to decide on its ultimate partner, its strong defence alliance with the Washington DC is bound to influence its thinking.

In a February interview, Kelli Seybolt, deputy under secretary of the Air Force for international affairs, told FlightGlobal that the US government’s main hope for the new fighter is interoperability.

”Japan has approached us regarding their FX programme to replace the F-2 and the United States government’s position is that we want to work with Japan to help them create an interoperable capability,” she said.

“And our desire is that the fighter they want to develop will be interoperable with our capabilities…we’re open to Japan working with industry to formulate some partnerships, so that Japan can gain the benefit of some of what our industry has learned.”