US AND JAPANESE Government negotiators are close to reaching a breakthrough, over work-share for the Mitsubishi F-2A/B support fighter, allowing production of the new aircraft to begin.

An agreement, was expected to be struck in Washington on 25 July, ending months of arduous negotiations, which had been in danger of stalling, for lack of progress (Flight International, 5-11 June P5).

The deal covers 120 main items, including the F-2's power plant, avionics subsystems and airframe, and provides an agreed dollar-yen exchange rate on which to base work-share. US manufacturers will get a 40% work-share, worth an estimated '400 billion ($3.6 billion) over a planned production run of 130 fighters.

The agreement also resolves previous disagreements between the USA and Japan on production of the F-2's main wing. Mitsubishi will build all of the aircraft's right-hand wings and some left-hand wings, ensuring it complete control of the fighter's design. Lockheed Martin will supply the remaining left-hand wings.

Production of the F-2's General Electric F110-129 engine will be shared with Japan. Ishikawajima-Harima Heavy Industries (IHI) will be responsible for about 40% of the work, manufacturing components, final assembly and testing the engines. The remainder will be done by GE.

Sources say that the new agreement, is scheduled to be submitted to the US Congress on 2 August, to begin a 30- day period of notification and approval. Negotiators have been pushing to finalise the deal before Congress recesses for the summer, and so avoid any further programme delay.

Source: Flight International