WASHINGTON (Kyodo) U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates recommended Monday ending production of the F-22 fighter as part of a major review of the Pentagon’s spending priorities.
Production of the F-22 stealth jet, which costs $140 million apiece, would be halted at 187. This would dash Japan’s hopes of acquiring the Lockheed Martin Corp.-built jet as the country’s next-generation mainstay fighter.
The F-22 has been Tokyo’s priority due to its high capability to evade radar detection, mobility at supersonic speed and use by the U.S. Air Force, with which the Air Self-Defense Force would engage in joint operations in the event of an attack on Japan.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Takeo Kawamura said Tuesday that Japan is going about its selection process with Gates’ remarks in mind, saying the country’s defense concept remains unchanged regardless of whether the F-22 can be acquired.
“We will get various kinds of information again and decide appropriately through the process,” Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada told a separate news conference.
Gates also urged deep cuts to other arms programs, including downsizing a plan to erect a missile defense shield, revamping purchases of new destroyers and canceling Lockheed Martin’s Marine One presidential helicopter.
“We must re-balance this department’s programs in order to institutionalize and finance our capabilities to fight the wars we are in today and the scenarios we are most likely to face in the years ahead,” he said.
Washington has been reluctant to share F-22 information with Tokyo, apparently fearing a possible leak of sensitive U.S. technology, while Japan continues to study six models for successor aircraft to the aging F-4EJ fleet.
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