Tokyo Moves Closer to Buying a New Generation of Jet Fightershttp://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970204422404576594332056411492.html
TOKYO—Japan moved a step closer to buying a new generation of jet fighters Monday after it accepted bids by three of the world's biggest defense contractors for what is expected to be a deal worth several billion dollars.
In line with a Japanese government deadline, the country's Defense Ministry received bids from Boeing Co. for the company's F-18 Super Hornet, Lockheed Martin Corp. for its F-35 Lightning II JSF and Eurofighter GmbH for its Typhoon fighter, a ministry spokesman said.
The bids were formally submitted to Japan by the U.S. government in the case of the F-18 and F-35, and by the British government, along with BAE Systems PLC and trading house Sumitomo Corp., for Eurofighter.
Defense Minister Yasuo Ichikawa has said he expects a final decision by December as part of the government's budgetary discussions for fiscal 2012.
The next-generation fighter program, dubbed the FX in Japan, will likely call for the purchase of about 40 to 60 planes in a deal expected to total about $4 billion, industry officials said.
The project has been delayed for years as successive administrations have sought more time to ponder Japan's military needs amid declining defense budgets and rapid advances in aviation technology.
The latest delay in the FX program came earlier this year when the ministry, which had been expected to start vetting bids in March, postponed the process an additional six months because of the March 11 disasters.
Boeing and Lockheed Martin have both said they are willing to localize at least part of their production in Japan in order to sweeten their bids. Japanese industry circles have called on the government to insist on a localized manufacturing component, most likely through a major contractor.
The new fighter will replace the Japanese Air Self Defense Force's 70 aging F-4 fighters made by McDonnell Douglas, which is now part of Boeing, using technology dating from the 1960s.
The rest of Japan's 361 operational combat aircraft include 202 1980s-era McDonnell Douglas F-15 fighters produced under license by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. and 89 newer F-2 fighters manufactured jointly by Lockheed Martin and Mitsubishi Heavy, and which are based on F-16 technology from the 1990s.