Japan will team up with Lockheed Martin Corp. to develop a next-generation fighter jet that will replace the Air Self-Defense Force's aging F-2, the Defense Ministry said Friday.

The ministry weighed the American aerospace giant's experience in delivering the U.S. military's mainstay F-22 and F-35 stealth fighters when narrowing down from two other partner candidates — BAE Systems PLC. of the U.K. and Boeing Co. of the United States.

Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd., the lead contractor for the project, will finalize terms for the deal through negotiations with Lockheed Martin before sealing it.

Japan will still continue to seek subcategory partners to make individual parts, such as the engine and electrical equipment, in an effort to curb total investment for the delivery of the F-2 successor — which is expected to surpass ¥2 trillion.

Related research to ensure interoperability between the envisioned fighter and U.S. military aircraft will commence in fiscal 2021, which will start in April, according to the ministry.