Japan will join the U.S-led global parts-sharing system for F-35 stealth jet production, in an exception to its long-standing principle of not exporting weapons or weapon-specific parts to other countries, the government announced Friday.
Israel is among the 10 countries set to procure F-35 jets and could begin to receive parts produced by Japanese companies via the U.S.-operated Autonomic Logistics Global Sustainment program.
“By joining this system, we will be able to receive parts when necessary and maintain (high) operating rates of F-35s with proper costs,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a news conference Friday.
But he admitted that another important goal is to help the domestic defense industry tap the latest technologies and continue to produce highly advanced weapon systems.
“We can maintain and advance Japan’s defense industry and technological knowhow” by joining ALGS, Suga noted.
Among defense-related manufacturers, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd., Mitsubishi Electric Corp. and IHI Corp. now intend to make fuselage, radar and engine parts for the F-35.
These parts will first be pooled under ALGS and, whenever necessary, provided under the just in time production strategy to any of the system’s nine other member countries: the U.S., Canada, Israel, Britain, Italy, Holland, Norway, Denmark and Turkey.
Including Japan, the 10 nations plan to procure a total of 3,000 F-35 jets, according to government officials in Tokyo. “It’s like a hub-and-spoke system” centered on ALGS, one official said.
Under Japan’s nonexport principle for arms, domestic firms are prohibited from shipping weapons and weapons-specific parts to communist countries, states with which the United Nations has banned such exports to, and nations involved, or feared to soon become embroiled, in international conflicts.
Although Israel likely falls within the third category, the government will not block exports of weapons parts to the country as far as F-35 fighters are concerned.
Asked about the apparent inconsistency with the nation’s nonexport principle, Suga said Japan will provide F-35 parts on the assumption that all of the 10 ALGS countries are properly abiding by the U.N. Charter. However, if any of them enter into a military conflict that is deemed unjustifiable under the charter, Japan might cease supplying F-35 parts to ALGS, a senior government official said.
But in reality, Japan would find it extremely difficult to withdraw from ALGS since it plans to purchase 42 F-35A stealth jets and deploy them as the next-generation mainstay fighters of the Self-Defense Forces.
Suga also assured that the U.S. will strictly control the system and that none of the F-35 parts will be provided to countries outside ALGS.