Japan and Britain plan to collaborate on researching technology for air-to-air missiles that could one day be loaded on the F-35 stealth fighter jets to be acquired and operated by the Air Self-Defense Force, Japanese government sources said Wednesday.
The envisioned collaboration between the two countries will be signed off on by Cabinet ministers at a meeting of the National Security Council on Thursday, along with a proposal to export Japanese-made parts of a surface-to-air missile to a U.S. defense company, the sources said.
If finalized at the meeting, they are likely to be the first NSC decisions on arms export policy since an embargo on the export of defense equipment and related technology was eased in April under the government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
Under Japan’s newly relaxed rules, defense equipment and related technology can be exported if it is determined to be in the aid of Japan’s security interests and international peace. Some people say that by acting on such rules, Japan could aid international conflicts.
Japan and Britain are expected to reach an agreement on the joint missile research on the occasion of a “two-plus-two” meeting of their respective foreign and defense ministers that may be held in Britain as early as September.
The missile in question is the Meteor air-to-air missile currently under development between Britain and several European countries, including France and Germany.
The Meteor boasts a particularly long range, but concerns remain about its accuracy. Britain has thus looked to Japanese companies for their advanced sensor technology, the sources said.
Those involved in the envisioned research collaboration over the Meteor will carry out a simulation of the missile’s performance with the addition of the Japanese technology, the sources added.
Japan is planning to purchase F-35s to replace ithe ASDF’s aging F-4 Phantom fighter fleet. Aside from Japan and Britain, Australia and South Korea are among those countries that have ordered or are planning to order the F-35s.
Japan’s newly adopted arms export rule has made it possible, under certain conditions, to engage in joint research and development on defense equipment with countries that have security ties with Japan.
Last July, Japan and Britain agreed on a framework to guard against the leaking of collaboratively developed defense technology and started studying a suit together to protect against chemical weapons.