Japan’s Air Self-Defence Force has issued a letter of request to France, the UK and the USA to provide information on new fighters to replace the service’s planned phased retirement of 91 Mitsubishi/McDonnell Douglas F-4EJ Kais from 2010, writes Seili Hirokawa in Yokohama.

The FX fighter requirement – a key element of Tokyo’s 2005-9 defence plan – has been narrowed to the Boeing F-15FX and F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, Dassault Rafale, Eurofighter Typhoon and Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor and F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF).

“We want to get information on the operation and maintenance plans, systems and performance concept of the six models,” says the air force. A formal competition will be launched after the data provided by the three governments is analysed, it adds.

Boeing appears to have taken an advantage in the FX fighter contest, with Lockheed’s F-22 yet to secure export approval and JSF deliveries not possible within Tokyo’s limited timeframe.

The Dassault Rafale and Eurofighter Typhoon bids, meanwhile, must attempt to convince the government to acquire a European fighter for the first time.

Source: Flight International