Mitsubishi Electric and Lockheed Martin have reached a basic agreement to develop and market military equipment jointly to Japan's Defence Agency. The tie-up reflects Mitsubishi's desire to boost its military research and development efficiency by adopting US technologies, and Lockheed Martin's drive to expand Japanese market share.

Although the talks are still at a "very formative stage", the link is likely to include areas in which Mitsubishi is strong, such as missile-mounted electronic devices and weapons control/electronic warfare systems and radar devices mounted on aircraft and ships.

In addition to exchanging technologies and marketing data, the partners are expected to jointly propose new products to the Defence Agency. Lockheed Martin will also regard Mitsubishi as a leading candidate when it negotiates licensing agreements with Japanese companies.

The move represents the first research and development collaboration between US and Japanese defence companies. The agreement builds on Lockheed Martin's extensive co-operation with Mitsubishi in developing the new F-2A/B support fighter based on the F-16C/D.

The partners are working on the details of the agreement and are expected to sign a formal accord within the next couple of months. They plan to develop initially missile-guidance equipment. Observers in Tokyo suggest that one of the early results of a tie-up could see Mitsubishi use the US company's growing links with Israel on air-to-air missiles such as the Rafael Python 4 to secure the helmet mounted sight technology it is seeking to aid development of the XAAM-5 missile (Flight International. 8-14 July).

Lockheed Martin has for a long time led US marketing of defence equipment in Japan. Mitsubishi is Japan's third-largest defence contractor, and sells about ´130 billion-worth of equipment to the Defence Agency each year.

Source: Flight International