Japan turns to Britain in battle for skies

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A more recent report suggested its latest upgrade would mean it might need new motors to provide enough electric power, at an unknown cost.

And the US government itself was not immune to being cut off from the program’s technology, as it said a license for the source code of its logistics software would be too expensive for the Department of Defense is buying designer Lockheed Martin, which shows “the extent to which this is a closed program,” according to Francis Tusa, an independent defense analyst.

Japan in particular has good reason to be colder on cooperation with the United States since it was denied the option to buy the top secret F-22 air superiority fighter from the United States. United States.

U.S. export controls require that “sales be for specific authorized military purposes and subject to end-use control,” leading some to question whether the U.S. has too much control over equipment they sell.

For example, last year the United Arab Emirates suspended its $23 billion purchase of US weapons in part because of concerns about “sovereign operational restrictions” imposed on the F-35s it was trying to buy. .

But a fly in the ointment at the idea of ​​the UK replacing the US as Japan’s main technology ally is the broader security partnership Japan has with America, Cunningham says.

The 62-year-old Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security between the United States and Japan commits the two nations to mutual defense and creates a military alliance between the two countries.

Japan’s proximity to North Korea and Russia, with whom it has a dispute over the Kuril Islands, which are Russian but over which Japan has a claim, means it has a reason to maintain friendly relations with the United States.

At the same time, Japan needs access to the best stealth technology as its neighbor China pours money into the latest radar research. While the two nations have a good relationship, China’s military activity in the South China Sea and its growing defense budget mean Japan is unlikely to want to be left behind.

Late last year, British jet engine maker Rolls-Royce signed a deal with Japanese industrial giant IHI to invest in a cutting-edge engine. The project, which has expected UK funding of £230million, is due to start in earnest in the coming weeks, and the companies hope to have a prototype by 2026.

Its Tempest engine program will likely remain separate, but since the two engine designs will both power power-hungry twin-engine fighter jets, Rolls can use what it learns with IHI on the Tempest engine.

Japan will likely stick to its own program, the FX, Cunningham says, if history is any guide. “I can’t think they were partners in a non-American program.”

But that wouldn’t necessarily preclude a deal to bring Japan on board with some aspects of Tempest. With engines, flight controls, radar, weapons integration, sensors and other detection systems to be developed, as well as the body of the aircraft itself, there are many opportunities to salvage parts for your own aircraft,” says Tusa, the defense analyst.

“What seems to be the case with Tempest is that you don’t have to join Tempest. But you can join the radar. So it seems like it’s a bit more pick and mix,” he says.

The decision to bring BAE on board is said to be based on a 2020 “request for information” from the Japanese Ministry of Defense to which BAE responded on how it could provide technical assistance on the new jet.

BAE said its response “sets out the technical capabilities in a range of key areas, which BAE Systems can offer to support the development of the FX”.

BAE’s Andy Latham said at the time: “We strongly believe we can add significant value to FX. We have decades of experience partnering with nations around the world to provide sovereign capability. »

BAE declined to comment on reports of a revived collaboration.

If the UK is to retain the ability to manufacture a fighter jet – or at least most of it – it will need partners to place orders and finance more than helping with the technology.

Funding a fighter jet program requires billions of pounds of research, testing and software, which is not feasible on a few hundred planes, Cunningham says.

For countries like the UK and France, which have the technological – but not the financial – capacity to manufacture a state-of-the-art fighter, “it’s export or die”. Fortunately, UK partners Italy and Sweden are successful in selling to countries that the UK might struggle with.

“Sweden sells very well to non-aligned countries like Brazil and South Africa. Italy sells very well in southern Europe and North Africa,” says Cunningham.

The addition of Japan and its deep pockets for research could be the final piece of the puzzle.

“They have a lot of money to spend and a really serious and really serious perceived need. They feel that China is terribly close, as is North Korea, and that their relationship with Russia has deteriorated a lot.

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