Thursday, January 13, 2011

Gates Pitches F-35, Hornet and Eagle for Japan

TOKYO - Defense Secretary Robert Gates on Jan. 13 suggested Japan should consider buying U.S. fighter jets, during talks in Tokyo, as the country plans for new warplanes, a U.S. official said.
In a meeting with Defense Minister Toshimi Kitazawa, Gates "suggested Japan consider three U.S. planes to upgrade their fleet," the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, the F/A-18 Hornet and the F-15 Eagle, the senior defense official said.
Gates offered that the Pentagon could give Japan an analysis of the merits of each aircraft, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Japan is taking stock of its defense hardware in the face of China's growing military might and assertive stance in the Pacific.
Gates flew to Tokyo on Jan. 12 after a visit to China, where his fence-mending talks were overshadowed by a Chinese stealth fighter test, which came sooner than U.S. military officials had anticipated.
During his visit to Beijing this week, Gates noted that Japan was looking for a new fighter aircraft.
"And so that would give Japan the opportunity - if they bought the right airplane - to have a fifth-generation capability. And I might have a few suggestions for them," he said Jan. 11.
"Fifth-generation" fighters are equipped with stealth and radar-evading equipment. The F-35 - which is still under development - would meet that requirement.
Lockheed Martin's F-35, the most expensive weapons program in Pentagon history, has been plagued by cost overruns and technical delays, with the project expected to cost an estimated $382 billion.
The U.S. is covering 90 percent of the cost of the F-35's development but has participation from Great Britain, Italy, Turkey, the Netherlands, Canada, Denmark, Norway and Australia.
Other nations, including Israel and Singapore, have signed contracts to buy the aircraft.
Japan initially aimed to acquire the F-22 stealth fighter to replace its aging F-4EJ fighter fleet, but U.S. law prohibits exports of the F-22 and the U.S. has announced a plan to halt production of the model.
Japan has also studied other models, such as the F/A-18 and F-15FX, and the Eurofighter, produced by a consortium of European manufacturers, as possible replacements for its fighter fleet.

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