Industry Disappointed As First Japan-Assembled F-35A Rolls Out

F-35 Fighter Disappoints Japanese Defense Industry (excerpt)

(Source: Nikkei Asian Review; posted June 5, 2017)

By Yuki Naganawa

AX-5, the first of 38 Lockheed Martin F-35A to be assembled at the Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) F-35 Final Assembly & Check-Out (FACO) facility in Nagoya, Japan, was unveiled June 5. (LM photo)

TOKYO --- Japan's first F-35 stealth fighter jet, which underwent final assembly in the country, was unveiled at Mitsubishi Heavy Industries' Minami Komaki Plant in Aichi Prefecture on June 5. But Japan's expectations for a larger role in the aircraft's production remain unfulfilled.

The F-35 is the Air Self-Defense Force's next-generation, mainstay fighter plane. The Defense Ministry plans to import four assembled F-35s, but this time components manufactured abroad were imported and assembled here. During the ministry's selection process for the next mainstay fighter, the Japanese defense industry requested a role producing some parts. But things are not going as planned.

Lockheed Martin developed the F-35 jointly with partners from eight other countries. Japan was not involved. The aircraft has high stealth capability that makes it difficult for radar to detect. The ASDF will deploy them to deal with North Korean provocations and foreign aircraft violating Japan's airspace.

Since the U.S. is already operating F-35s, joint operations will be easier. Expectations for the new model are high because Japan's fighter jets, including the F-2 jointly developed with the U.S., are aging.

It remains uncertain, however, whether the F-35 will give Japan's defense industry a boost since it may be involved only in final assembly.


Selection of the next mainstay fighter jet ended in 2011 after fierce competition between three Western rivals. In addition to performance and price, the Defense Ministry took into account whether the manufacturer would allow Japanese makers to join the production process, a concern intended to help prevent the domestic defense industry from losing competitiveness.

Despite high expectations, the only role Japan is presently slated to play for the F-35 is in assembly. There was a plan to produce part of the fuselage in the country when the F-35 was chosen, but it has virtually been abandoned, according to a defense industry source. In short, selecting the F-35 hardly benefits parts makers and reduces their role in the aircraft industry.

The ministry is planning to purchase 42 F-35s. Of them, four will be imported as finished products. The ministry will then choose how to further replace the aging SDF fleet, but the F-35 is not a lock because Boeing, which lost the F-35 bid to Lockheed Martin and is looking to make a comeback. (end of excerpt)

Click here for the full story, on the Nikkei website.


First Japanese-Built F-35A Officially Unveiled at Nagoya Facility

(Source: Lockheed Martin; issued June 5, 2017)

NAGOYA, Japan --- The first Japanese-assembled F-35A was unveiled at the Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) Komaki South F-35 Final Assembly and Check Out (FACO) facility here today. The Japan F-35 FACO is operated by MHI with technical assistance from Lockheed Martin and oversight from the U.S. Government.

Approximately 200 people attended the ceremony including Japanese and United States government and defense industry leaders. The ceremony highlighted the strong partnership between the Japanese Ministry of Defense, U.S. Department of Defense, MHI and Lockheed Martin.

Kenji Wakamiya, senior vice minister of defense; Gen. Yoshiyuki Sugiyama, Japan Air Self Defense Force (JASDF) chief of staff; Lt. Gen. Jerry Martinez, commander, U.S. Forces Japan and 5th Air Force; Vice Adm. Mat Winter, F-35 Program Executive Officer; Vice Adm. Dave Lewis, Defense Contract Management Agency Director; Naohiko Abe, MHI's senior vice president and Integrated Defense & Space Systems president, and Orlando Carvalho, executive vice president of Lockheed Martin Aeronautics, attended the milestone event.

"Seeing the first Japanese built F-35A is a testament to the global nature of this program," said Vice Adm. Mat Winter, F-35 Program Executive Officer. "This state of the art assembly facility, staffed with a talented and motivated workforce, enables us to leverage industry's unique talents and technological know-how to produce the world's best multi-role fighter. The F-35 will enhance the strength of our security alliances and reinforce long-established bonds with our allies through training opportunities, exercises, and military-to-military events."

The Japanese Ministry of Defense competitively selected the F-35A as the JASDF's next-generation air defense fighter in December 2011, with a Foreign Military Sales program of record of 42 F-35As. The first four JASDF F-35As were previously delivered from the Fort Worth, Texas, production facility. Subsequent deliveries of 38 F-35A aircraft will come from the FACO here in Japan.

Additionally, the U.S. Department of Defense selected the Nagoya FACO in 2014 for the North Asia-Pacific regional heavy airframe Maintenance Repair Overhaul & Upgrade (MROU) facility.

"Building upon our enduring relationship with Japanese industry, we are fully committed to our F-35 production partnership with MHI and our support to the Japan Ministry of Defense," Carvalho said. "The skilled workers who achieved this milestone know firsthand the F-35's capability and how this aircraft will only strengthen the U.S.-Japan Security Alliance, thereby building upon Japan's strategic vision to ensure the Alliance remains strong for decades to come."

The F-35 Lightning II is a next-generation fighter, combining advanced stealth with fighter speed and agility, advanced mission systems, fully fused sensor information, network-enabled operations and cutting-edge sustainment. More than 220 operational F-35s have been built and delivered worldwide and they have collectively flown more than 95,000 flight hours.

Headquartered in Bethesda, Maryland, Lockheed Martin is a global security and aerospace company that employs approximately 97,000 people worldwide and is principally engaged in the research, design, development, manufacture, integration and sustainment of advanced technology systems, products and services.


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