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Japan poised to make F-X fighter decision – Boeing

Boeing believes Tokyo could announce the winner of its 42-aircraft F-X competition before the end of this month and is also optimistic about its chances in Malaysia's fighter contest.

"We've been going through a question-and-answer process with Japan, but now that is over," said Joe Song, vice president of business development for Boeing in the Asia Pacific. "We expect a decision before the end of this year, as they are going through their processes now."

The Japan competition sees Boeing's F/A-18E/F Super Hornet pitted against the Eurofighter Typhoon and Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II. The selected aircraft will replace the Japan Air-Self Defense Force's McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom IIs. A request for proposals was issued last April, with the rivals having submitted their bids in September.

US Navy F/A-18 E/F

Boeing is optimistic about its prospects with the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet

With the recent closure of the Mitsubishi F-2 assembly line, Japan is not currently producing a fighter, jeopardising its institutional ability to produce such modern aircraft. This means it is unlikely to delay a decision on F-X.

Song said that in the event of a Super Hornet win, Japanese industry could end up doing three-quarters of the work involved in building the aircraft. "There would be costs involved, so it's about finding the right balance," he said. "We're very flexible."

Eurofighter and Lockheed have also said they would offer a great deal of work to Japanese industry.

Speaking to Flightglobal at the Langkawi International Maritime and Aerospace exhibition in Malaysia, Song said there have been no new developments in the nation's multi-role combat aircraft (MRCA) competition for the last 12 months. Boeing is also pitching the Super Hornet for the 18-aircraft requirement to replace the Royal Malaysian Air Force's RSK MiG-29s.

"Malaysia is still evaluating different platforms," he said. "We're very confident with Super Hornet and its cost certainty, schedule certainty and next-generation capabilities. We can beat anybody in the competition. We're very confident."

During the show, Boeing announced that it has been awarded an upgrade deal for Malaysia's current F/A-18D Hornets, with Song saying the enhancements would make it easier for pilots to switch to the Super Hornet if it is selected later.

Malaysia has yet to issue a request for proposals for the MRCA deal, but other candidates are expected to include the Typhoon, Dassault Rafale and Saab Gripen.

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