Japan is expected to sign a memorandum of understanding this month for the purchase of the Lockheed Martin/Raytheon Patriot Advanced Capability-3 (PAC-3) surface-to-air missile system.

Lockheed Martin senior manager of air and missile defence systems Paul Bergander says the government-to-government memorandum will be followed by a letter of agreement with Lockheed Martin covering the planned import of PAC-3 missiles. Japan plans to begin buying the missiles in the current fiscal year using foreign military sales channels and to launch co-production of the missiles starting in the next fiscal year.

Bergander says Lockheed Martin is now negotiating a co-production deal with Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, which earlier manufactured the PAC-2 missile system under a licence agreement with Raytheon.

James Armington, Raytheon International regional executive for north Asia, says Mitsubishi will also manufacture ground equipment for the PAC-3 beginning in the current fiscal year.

The UScompany is awaiting a contract between Mitsubishi and the Japan Defence Agency before proceeding with a licence agreement for the PAC-3's launcher.

Japan currently plans to fund its new ballistic missile defence (BMD) programme over the next four years at an estimated annual cost of $1 billion, but Lockheed Martin and Raytheon expect the acquisition could be extended beyond 2008. "BMD is a high priority now," says Bergander.

Japan first asked for price availability data on the PAC-3 last December, and the US Congress has already been notified of its potential purchase.


Source: Flight International