There is some buzz around the internet at the moment following a Nikkei article announcing that the Eurofighter Typhoon has been eliminated from the competition for the next-generation fighter. A rough translation follows:

Next-gen fighter to be decided between two US jets  in November
2011/10/23      2:03

The Eurofighter Typhoon flies home

The Eurofighter Typhoon flies home (Source: Eurofighter)

The next-generation successor (F-X) to the Air Self-Defense Forces’ F-4 fighter will be determined in November. From three US and European fighters, the Ministry of Defense  has narrowed down the competition by one, moving into a showdown between the two US-made fighters, the F-35 and F/A-18. The F-X will become the cornerstone of the defense of Japanese airspace, and it needs to be high performance and to some extent allowed to be produced domestically, moreover, it will be an important factor in the alliance and relations with the US.

“With China becoming more and more active, the security environment is becoming increasingly uncertain.” In front of ASDF members at the annual military review was held at ASDF Hyakuri Air Base (Ibaraki) on October 16th,  Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda singled out China and called for the strengthening of Japan’s defense.

China, who along with Russia have repeatedly encroached upon Japanese waters and airspace, is developing a low-radar observable state-of-the-art 5th generation fighter, the J-20. Prime Minister Noda’s was raised in an SDF family. He created a stir when he announced his concern over China in those unprepared remarks.

For the F-X seclection process, “The most important factor is capability,” Defense Minister Yasuo Ichikawa noted. State-of-the-art fighters being developed in China and Russia are rapidly outstripping the capabilities of the current generation. One ASDF official said that “Quality before quantity” is common-sense for an air-to-air fighter, and pointed out that the number of planes deployed in Japan is limited in comparison to foreign nations, so officials within the ASDF have argued long and hard for the most capable option, the F-35.

Many say, “It is important that Japanese industry be involved in the production, maintenance and management.” Last month, Japan’s 50-years of uninterrupted fighter production came to an end. There is a sense of crisis in the defense industry, if they are left out of the F-X production, “There will be a serious decline in the technology of the related industries.”

Given the importance that this competition has within the US-Japan alliance, it is perhaps unsurprising that the Typhoon has been dismissed early on. This leaves the older F/A-18 and the new F-35, surrounded by many issues regarding domestic production, in the final running.

[H/T to JSW commentor Robert]

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A former contributor to World Intelligence (Japan Military Review), James Simpson joined Japan Security Watch in 2011, migrating with his blog Defending Japan. He has a Masters in Security Studies from Aberystwyth University and is currently living in Kawasaki, Japan. His primary interests include the so-called 'normalization' of Japanese security (i.e. militarization), and the political impact of the abduction issue with North Korea.
James Simpson has 254 post(s) on Japan Security Watch