F-35. U.S. Navy photo.

Kyodo news agency reports that the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter may be dropped from the F-X fighter procurement program. The revised F-35 program schedule, which pushes operational testing flights to 2017 (or beyond) means the F-35 wouldn’t be delivered soon enough. The F-X is meant to replace the 40+ year old F-4 Phantom, which is already being withdrawn from Air Self Defense Force service.

Michael Gilmore, director of operational test and evaluation at the U.S. Department of Defense, told the Senate Armed Services Committee that operational testing of the F-35 will begin in spring 2017.

That’s far outside Japan’s goal for taking delivery of its next mainstay fighter by March 2017, which means the F-35 faces being dropped.

Japan has expressed serious interest in the F-35, F/A-18 and the European-designed Eurofighter Typhoon.

The Defense Ministry and Self-Defense Forces, which place importance on coordination with U.S. forces, could pick the F/A-18 Super Hornet strike fighter, the sources said. (Link)

Timing has been a problem with procuring the F-35 for some time now. Unlike countries such as the United Kingdom, Italy and Australia, Japan was not one of the original backers of the F-35 program. Those that contributed money to the program get their planes first. Japan would be in the back of the line. A possible alternative would be that Japan take the place of a country that might drop out out of the F-35 program, but now with the revised schedule even that option is likely out the window.

If the F-35 is dropped, the two remaining fighters in the competition are the F/A-18 Super Hornet and the Eurofighter Typhoon.

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A contributor and editor at the blog War Is Boring, Kyle Mizokami started Japan Security Watch in 2010 to further understand Japan's defenses and security policy.
Kyle Mizokami has 596 post(s) on Japan Security Watch