The government endorsed at a National Security Council meeting Thursday a proposal to jointly develop submarines for the Australian navy, government sources said.
The proposal, which includes an option to build the submarines in Australia, will be submitted to Canberra on Monday, the deadline set under the competitive evaluation process that also includes Germany and France, the sources said.
If successful, it would be Japan’s first full-fledged export of weapons since the country eased its nearly half-century ban on defense equipment exports in April 2014.
Australia is expected to decide next year on which country to team up with for what it calls the “largest defense procurement program in its history.” It plans to build up to 12 submarines, setting aside an estimated 50 billion Australian dollars ($36 billion).
According to the sources, the Japanese government affirmed at the meeting that it can export submarine technology to Australia, which will entail the transfer of highly confidential information, in light of its new defense equipment export policy.
The government also expects the possible tie-up with Australia to benefit Japan amid China’s growing maritime assertiveness in the region.
The Defense Ministry has not unveiled the details of the information to be passed on, but the proposal is expected to be based on the Maritime Self-Defense Force’s Soryu-class diesel-electric submarines that have highly advanced stealth capabilities.