By Tim Kelly
TOKYO (Reuters) – Lockheed Martin Corp
“There are industrial opportunities that are still available for Japan. The action is on their side of the ledger right now,” Steve Over, director of international business development for the F-35 program, said in an interview at the Japan Aerospace 2016 show in Tokyo.
Japan has ordered 42 F-35 to replace its fleet of aging F-4s. Most of those will be put together by Mitsubishi Heavy at a final assembly and check out plant in Japan.
Japan’s government and its companies declined to join the F-35 build at the start of the program as constraints on arms exports at the time meant they could not make components for defense equipment that would be used by foreign militaries.
Prime Minister Shinto Abe’s government lifted that export ban in April 2014, but it was too late for Japanese industry to join the F-35 as top tier profit sharing partner. Subsequent talks for Mitsubishi Heavy to supply aft fuselage parts for BAE Systems Plc
Japan, Over said, could still do that fuselage work or bid for other contracts if it wants to.
“In our heart and soul we would like to have more opportunity in Japan.”
Getting Japan more involved in the F-35 could bolster Lockheed’s chance of selling more of the stealth fighters to Japan.
Japan’s military is planning to retire around 100 older F-15 fighters in the coming years and will need a replacement jet.
(Reporting by Tim Kelly; Editing by Nick Macfie)