Japan has named Mitsubishi Heavy Industries as the prime contractor to build its next-generation fighter jet, with the Defense Ministry announcing that it signed a contract with the company.
Local media is reporting Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi said the country will select an overseas partner by the end of this year for collaboration on aircraft technology, with stealth technology being one area of focus.
Reuters previously reported the contract for the aircraft is worth up to $40 billion.
The Defense Ministry is also seeking more funding for F-X research and development in its latest budget request submitted to the country’s Finance Ministry in late September.
The Defense Ministry requested $555.8 million for the main program and an additional $113.6 million for R&D of fighter subsystems, such as radars and mission systems integration.
The funding will allow Japan to continue its R&D work into fighter technology, which it has kept up over the past decade despite the end of production on the Mitsubishi F-2 fighter jet and the decision to buy the Lockheed Martin F-35.
Japan plans to replace its fleet of approximately 90 F-2 jets with the new fighter jet starting around 2035. The F-2 was developed in conjunction with Lockheed in the 1990s, and resembles a larger version of the American company’s F-16 multirole fighter but is primarily equipped with indigenous systems.
Japan also plans to acquire 147 F-35s, which will include 42 of the short-takeoff-and-vertical-landing variants. That version, the F-35B, will operate from a pair of helicopter destroyers currently undergoing modifications to handle the jet.
Japan also recently selected Boeing to upgrade 98 of its license-built Mitsubishi F-15J/DJ Eagle interceptors that will see the jets fitted with newer radars and integrated with standoff land-attack missiles.