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Arms Race in Asia
Tokyo Wants New Fighter Jets to Counter Beijing

Trying to maintain an air advantage over China, Tokyo has been developing new advanced aircraft. Now, it’s looking for companies to build them. Reuters:

The discussions with defense companies including Boeing Co and Lockheed Martin Ltd come as Japan readies its ATD-X experimental aircraft for its first test flights within days.

Stealth fighter technologies being tested on the ATD-X, being developed by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) and the Japanese Ministry of Defence’s Technical Research and Development Institute, would also be incorporated into the new fighter, dubbed the F-3, industry and government sources said.

“They have begun exploratory engagement to look at our capabilities,” said a source with a Western defense contractor. “There is no policy decision and no program of record for the next fighter. There is only some discussion that, logically, there will be a fighter at some point.”

Analysts estimate the cost of such a program at $40 billion or more, a price tag that could yet prove prohibitive.

Japan’s efforts are a direct response to China’s new aircraft, which experts say can’t yet compete with U.S.-made planes like the F-35 and F-22 but are nonetheless a significant improvement over the old models. These are just the latest developments in a busy Asia arms race which has been escalating over the past decade.

Militarization has other benefits for Japan too: when Tokyo unveiled its X-2 stealth fighter earlier this year, we noted that it was a notable convergence of Prime Minister Abe’s efforts to reinvigorate the economy and his remilitarization priorities. By getting involved in the advanced weapons business, Japan is effectively pumping billions of yen into high-tech R&D. In the United States, that strategy birthed the internet. Japan is wise to copy it.

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  • Fat_Man

    Honda’s new business jet is a better fighter plane than the F35. If the Japanese give it a whirl they will easily build better planes than the US. The Japanese, not the Germans, are the world’s best engineers.

    • Frank Natoli

      The F-35 is no dog fighter, hence your first sentence with just a little hyperbole, because of USMC VTOL requirements. Nobody can engage an F-22, whether they see it or not. It was a crime to shut down the F-22 line so prematurely. So what else is new?

    • f1b0nacc1

      As bad as the F-35 is (and it is AWFUL), the Japanese have some serious problems when it comes to warplane design. Ignoring for a moment their difficulties in WWII, their postwar designs (the F-1 and F-2) have been uninspiring at best. They lack a useful engine industry, and while they make lovely pachinko machines, their abilities in advanced avionics are questionable.
      Engineering is a big field, the Japanese are good at some things (mostly process and QC), but not everything….

      • Fat_Man

        Their cars are far better than the German cars, says the very happy owner of a 2014 Accord.

        • Frank Natoli

          I agree that the Japanese are the best automotive engineers in the world, but their culture is so different that their very well engineered cars simply have no soul. The Germans, thankfully excelling at cars and not panzers, know how to put soul in a car. The Italians of course are the best at that, but their prices are stratospheric. Did visit the Lambo factory a few years back. Heavy panting on exit.

          • Fat_Man

            I owned 2 MB E class cars. They may have had a soul, but it was the soul of a Prussian martinet and they were unreliable and expensive to fix. I went to Japan (actually Marysville, Ohio) and found comfort and reliability. Sushi is tastier than sauerkraut.

            Lambo? Check my screen name. Beautiful to look at, but I couldn’t get in or out of one of those things without a crane and coating of WD-40.

          • Frank Natoli

            Cars named for Daimler’s daughter are not what I was thinking of. Had a simple BMW 323i for a while. Ex-wife got it. That was a car that, on one hand, you drove, it didn’t drive you, but on the other hand, the interior just wrapped around you, like you were back in womb while you made speed. The only sensation of speed was visual. Sound was perfectly controlled, exhaust tuned to give you exactly the right hum. No matter what the speedo read, the car was on rails, and you didn’t have to turn the wheel, you only had to THINK left or right, links oder rechts. No car from Dai Nippon can compare.

          • Fat_Man

            I am glad you are happy with your Beemer. I am so happy with my Accord, that I will never again spend twice as much for half as much.

          • f1b0nacc1

            A former boss of mine was captain of the Ferrari racing team….now that was a car with soul….

          • Frank Natoli

            After hitting the Lambo factory in Sant Agata, I then hit the Ferrari museum [no admittance for we peasants to the Ferrari factory] in Maranello. Jesus H. Christ. In addition to the greatest racing cars and engines of all time, there was a corner shrine to Enzo, with a mural of photos from his youth to his final presence. Most extraordinary.

        • f1b0nacc1

          Agrees the owner of a 2015 Prius (yes, I am embarrassed)

          • Andrew Allison

            As you well should be [grin]

          • f1b0nacc1

            The gadgets (I am a huge technophile….bet that is a surprise!) were irresistible, and the price was right….

          • Andrew Allison

            Having spent my career in the computer industry, I’m more-or-less a technophobe. The pervasiveness of “the Macintosh effect” (because we have 100 fonts we must use as many as possible per page) really ticks me off. Java has immeasurably compounded the felony (just install a good script blocker to see the number of scripts per page).

          • f1b0nacc1

            Java =/= Javascript

            Otherwise, I completely agree with you. I am a gadget hound, but I suspect that in a different age, I would have gotten into tinkering with cars or a home workshop…

    • White Knight Leo

      “The Japanese, not the Germans, are the world’s best engineers.”
      .
      I dunno about that. Their guns are sh!t. Not even the JSDF actually uses Japanese guns.

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