I recently read some Japan Times articles about whether Japan should order F-35s from here in the U.S. or develop your own fighters, and I think it’s important to encourage Japan to pursue its own aircraft when feasible.
This may not be completely obvious from inside Japan, but from the perspective of the U.S. there are dozens of U.S. allies who are either not completely interested in the F-35 or cannot qualify to own or operate such an advanced aircraft and the responsibility that comes with it. Nations such as Canada, Australia, France and countless smaller U.S. allies do not need aircraft such as the F-35, or simply do not want it.
There are countless countries that would be thrilled to own an export version of a Japanese stealth fighter, even with significantly reduced capabilities in order to keep the technology secure.
Many nations only require moderate defense from modern weapons and do not need or want aircraft such as the F-35. They are not facing the possibility of any cutting-edge threat and only require a reasonable amount of security.
Japan could greatly offset the cost of development of many major components by using them as the basis for less advanced and expensive export aircraft. Many nations would gladly purchase the airframe with reduced engine or stealth capabilities. Any profits from these sales would only help to offset the cost of total development.
Japan would not only fill a need for itself, but would almost certainly fill a need for a large number of allies who cannot or do not want to purchase the F-35.
An advanced Japanese aircraft could both exceed the F-35 and also provide a less advanced alternative using the same airframe with less advanced technology. It could serve both the cutting-edge need of Japan as well as the needs of countless other nations, simply depending on which components the airframe is equipped with. Japan risks being left without key military abilities if unexpected political issues arise in the future.
It is critical that Japan be a military second line of defense in its region, as well as a second source of defense capabilities for those nations unable or unwilling to purchase U.S. technology. Japan cannot rely on outside assistance for nearly its entire air force. It must have domestic programs to fall back on.
The opinions expressed in this letter to the editor are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the policies of The Japan Times.