Japan should consider adopting the Eurofighter Typhoon as its next mainstay fighter jet even if the U.S. lifts its ban on exporting the stealthy F-22 Raptor, representatives of a U.K.-based defense and aerospace company said Thursday in Tokyo.

The Air Self-Defense Force is eager to replace about 50 of its aging F-4s with the high-tech F-22 for its agility and high stealth capabilities.

But recent reports indicate Washington is unlikely to sell its latest and greatest airplane to just anyone, while others say the ¥25 billion plane is too expensive.

Andy Latham, BAE System Inc. vice president in charge of Typhoon exports, told reporters that since the Typhoon costs only about ¥10 billion, it presents “an effective non-U.S. solution” with significant benefits for Japan.

The Typhoon, made by a consortium of European manufacturers, is already used by the air forces in Europe. Although export of the F-22 would be strictly controlled to prevent its military technology from falling into the wrong hands, Latham said selling the Typhoon will take a “no black box approach.”

The biggest difference between the two planes will be the “ability to offer Japan’s industry a significant package of work,” he said, explaining that the consortium could allow licensed manufacturing of the fighter in Japan and integration with Japanese equipment.

As for the Typhoon’s lack of stealth capability, however, BAE System’s Craig Penrice said stealth technology should not be considered an issue.

“Stealth is not the silver bullet answer that some might have you think,” the former Royal Air Force pilot said, adding that the Typhoon has overall countermeasures against radar detection, including reduced infrared emissions.

By comparison, stealth is “not cheap, not low maintenance and not fully exportable,” he said.

In total, Tokyo is considering six candidates to replace its F-4EJ fighters, including the U.S. F-35, which is still under development.

BAE has been pitching the Typhoon to Japan for years, although Tokyo and Washington have a strong defense alliance that leaves little room for non-U.S. bidders, Latham said.

Despite recent reports indicating the U.S. is unlikely to provide the F-22 to Japan, Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada said Tuesday the fighter “remains an option that will be pursued.”

Japan’s strong interest in the aircraft is based not only on its capabilities but also on its compatibility with the U.S. Air Force, which the ASDF would work closely with in the event Japan is attacked.

Some observers also say Tokyo is eager to update its aircraft with the most up-to-date fighter available so it can claim air superiority over China, which is continuing to build its military power.

Japan’s current mainstay fighter is the U.S.-designed F-15 Eagle.

P-3C patrols start

Kyodo News

A Maritime Self-Defense Force P-3C surveillance plane made its first patrol Thursday over the pirate-infested Gulf of Aden off Somalia, the Defense Ministry said.

The aircraft is one of two P-3Cs dispatched last month on the first overseas mission by MSDF patrol planes. They are supporting the two MSDF destroyers that have been patrolling for pirates in the gulf since late March.

The P-3Cs will gather information on suspicious ships to pass on to the destroyers and the commercial vessels they escort. The information will also be conveyed to navy vessels from other countries operating in the area, according to the ministry.

After arriving in Djibouti late last month, the P-3Cs had been conducting training flights. The aircraft are using the international airport in Djibouti as their operational base.

The destroyers have been escorting Japanese-related commercial vessels.

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