Lockheed Martin is working with Mitsubishi Heavy Industries on a local final assembly and checkout line for the F-35.
The first Japanese-produced F-35 is scheduled to roll off Mitsubishi's Nagoya line in 2017, says John Balderson, director of Japan F-35 business development for Lockheed Martin.
"We are greatly honoured that Japan chose the F-35," he adds, speaking to Flightglobal on the sidelines of the Japan Aerospace show in Nagoya. "We have tremendous faith in their industry."
Last December, Tokyo selected the F-35 in its F-X competition for 42 aircraft to replace its obsolescent McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantoms. The stealthy type won the bid against competitors Boeing F/A-18 E/F Super Hornet and the Eurofighter Typhoon.
Tokyo's first four aircraft, however, will be delivered from Lockheed Martin's main F-35 line in Forth Worth, Texas.
Balderson says a team from Lockheed will be assigned to work with Mitsubishi as it develops its F-35 production capabilities. It will comprise engineers specialising in areas such as tooling, quality and production.
Meanwhile, Lockheed is assisting Mitsubishi in the refurbishment of F-2 fighters that were seriously damaged in the Fukushima earthquake and tsunami of 2011. Footage at the time of the disaster showed several F-2s being washed along the apron at Matsushima air base.
Although a dozen damaged F-2s were written off, Mitsubishi is refurbishing six F-2B two-seat training aircraft. Lockheed is assisting the company in this project - the F-2 is largely based on the US company's F-16.
Source: Flight International