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F-22J Japanese Raptor

In late 2018 , reports surfaced that Lockheed Martin was willing to restart production of a modified F-22, and to extend significant work share to Japanese industry. “Lockheed Martin has proposed that Japanese companies be responsible for more than half of the development and production of a next-generation fighter jet that Japan wants to introduce in 2030,” Nikkei reported 23 August 2018. “Lockheed is offering Japan an upgraded version of the existing F-22.”

Lockheed Martin would first have to overcome the Obey Amendment, which prohibited export of the fighter. The Department of Defense Appropriations Act for 1999 included Sec. 8092. "None of the funds made available in this Act may be used to approve or license the sale of the F-22 advanced tactical fighter to any foreign government." In a floor statement on September 3, 1997, Rep. David Obey, D-Wausau, a leading liberal Democrat and chairman of the House Appropriations committee, stated "if indeed we are going to proceed to build the F-22 and spend $80 to $100 billion on that project to regain that technology edge that we ought to keep that technology at home and we ought not then sell that advanced technology to other countries. We are already being told that the contractor for the new F-22 is already talking about fully marketing that technology abroad. That is how we got into this problem in the first place.

Mr. Speaker, it seems to me if we want to stop chasing our tail, we will adopt this amendment and simply spell out that if we are going to spend $80 to $100 billion in order to regain a technology edge around the world, we are not then going to sell off that technology to other countries. That is all the amendment says, and I would simply suggest that if we do not do that, we will be back here in 10 years having to supply more money to replace the F-22 with an F-44, and 10 years after that replace it with an F-88 because we will have given away our technology edge time and time again. If we are going to spend taxpayers' money, we ought to keep the benefit of that technology here at home."

Obey did not stand for re-election in 2010. His 41-year tenure in the U.S. House of Representatives put him in rare company. Only 18 other people had served longer in the U.S. House than Obey. As chairman of the House’s Appropriations Committee, Obey has steered defense contracts toward 7th District companies, including SGI, Cray, Inc. and Rex Systems.

The US has not yet exported the F22 to any of its allies. The House Defense Appropriations Bill for FY2007 proposed to repeal the law, but export opponents in the House prevailed with the Senate in conference. In the Senate, prominent opponents were Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska), defense appropriations chairman, Sen. Byron L. Dorgan (D-N.D.), and Sen. Christopher S. Bond (R-Mo.). The Senate Appropriations Committee voted on July 18 to continue the ban.

Additionally, the company would have to restart a production line for an aircraft that had been out of production since 2012.

As a sweetener to the deal, Lockheed Martin was reportedly willing to incorporate avionics built by Mitsubishi Electric and a new wing developed by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries. Even components such as the fuselage that would be built in the United States would incorporate additional Japanese-made hardware. Potentially, the modified Raptor variant could use Japanese-developed IHI XF9-1 powerplants to replace the existing Pratt & Whitney F119 engines. “The updates will improve the plane's main wings and allow more fuel to be loaded, increasing the jet's range to about 2,200 km so it can be used to defend isolated islands and other missions,” Nikkei reported. If IHI's XF9-1 jet engine is adopted, Japanese companies could be responsible for more than 60% of the total work.

Although the F-22 is the most advanced stealth in the world, it uses a coating that is laborious to maintain. Maintenance would be simplified by using the same material as the F-35 stealth fighter.

Lockheed estimates the price of a next-generation F-22 at 24 billion yen [US$210,000,000] for an order of 70 aircraft. Producing 140 of the jets could reduce the unit price to about 21 billion yen [US$180,000,000]. This is rather higher than the F-35's 15 billion yen-per-jet [US$130,000,000] price tag.

On February 17, 2006 John T. Bennett reported in InsideDefense.com that momentum was building to sell the F-22A Raptor to trusted US allies, with Japan the most likely initial buyer. The proposal came as the Air Force had drastically scaled back the F-22A programmed buy, initially set at 381 fighters, but had scaled that figure back to just over 180. Overseas sales would keep the production line open, thus holding open the prospect of eventually building the full 381 plane objective force.

Most of the Pentagon's most trusted international partners have already signed up for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program, and are thus unlikely to sink money into also purchasing the F-22. The short list of possible Raptor purchasers includes Japan, Israel, and possibly Australia. Britain requested a Raptor display at the high-profile Farnborough Air Show in England in the summer of 2006.

The JASDF has contacted both Lockheed Martin and the Air Force about buying the F-22 as a possible candidate for the new F-X requirement. Other options include later model Boeing F-15s (F-15K equivalents, or better) or Boeing F/A-18E/Fs, Eurofighters, and a new upgraded version of the F-2. Japan received its first Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter briefing in 2004, so that fighter may be in the running as well. Japan plans to stop the procurement of the F-2 fighter, following a Japanese Defense Agency review that concluded that the F-2 was the least cost-effective of all available options. The F-X requirement arose from a need to acquire another 60-70 aircraft that would have been accounted for had the F-2 / FSX production run been fully implemented.

Japan reportedly requested technical information on the F-22A during a 2006 industry trade show in Singapore. Loren Thompson, defense analyst at the Lexington Institute, told Dave Hirschman of the Atlanta Journal Constitution on March 15, 2006 that Japan is the only realistic F-22A buyer. The plane is probably too costly for Israel, he said, and "Israel doesn't have the greatest track record when it comes to technology security." Britain and other European allies are committed to buying similar but less capable F-35s or non-stealthy fighters made by their own consortiums. "Japan has a big wallet," Thompson said, "and its neighbors are some of the biggest threats in the world. Japan is completely trustworthy, and it's in a location where the planes are needed."

Other alternatives to replace the F-4EJs and RF-4EJs might be "kaizen" F-15Js, with pods like ReeceLight or SHARP for reconnaissance. The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter could perform the air-air and reconnaissance roles, but its single-engine design would be a concern during maritime combat air patrols. Its overt status as a "strike" fighter could raise problems with a Self Defense Force. The Eurofighter Typhoon or Dassault Rafale are remote possibilities, given Japan's strong American industrial links.

Joe Katzman, writing in defenseindustrydaily.com, notes that Japan's "long sea zones and growing rivalry with China make a long-range, twin-engine, supercruising and stealthy interceptor that has unprecedented reconnaissance capabilities and leverages existing Japanese partnerships with Lockheed and Boeing nearly irresistible. Seen in that light, the JASDF's interest in the F-22 is less surprising."

Richard Aboulafia, aerospace analyst at the Teal Group told Dave Hirschman of the Atlanta Journal Constitution on March 15, 2006 that " ... there are some pressing national interests that argue in favor of selling this airplane to Japan. ... The F-22 is great for Japan's needs," he said, "and the U.S. would get world-class air superiority over much of the Pacific." Technology a touchy issue. "There will be technology transfer issues, and U.S. regulators may not sign off on it," Aboulafia said. "The Asia-phobia lobby would see all kinds of dangers."

But the Project on Government Oversight [POGO] argues that "if we as a nation are going to continue to develop and upgrade F-15 and F-16 technology not just for our own forces but also for export, we must retain the F-22 exclusively for U.S. use; or, if the F-22 is cancelled, we must limit the upgrade technology available for foreign export."

With China and Russia capable of mounting an air-to-air threat against America and its allies, having extra squadrons F-22s bedded down in Japan would make strategic sense to the Air Force. Japan is interested in purchasing the F-22A as a replacement for its aging fleet of F-4 aircraft. The Japan Air Self-Defense Force has four fighters in service: F-15J/F-15DJ Eagles, its F-4EJ "Kai" and RF-4EJ reconnaissance Phantom IIs, the Mitsubishi F-2s (a Japanese variant of the F-16C), and F-1s. The F-1,, which entered service in 1978, is is being replaced by F-2s; the JASDF introduced the F-4EJ in 1973, and would begin retiring them within the coming decade. If Japan makes an F-22A purchase, it would probably buy about 60 airplanes. This would equip two active squadrons of 24 airplanes each as well as spares and a few planes for training. Such a 60-plane sale in either 2007 or 2008 would add three years to the F-22A assembly line. About 2,200 workers build F-22As at Lockheed's 7,800-employee plant in Marietta. Without additional sales or new authorization for production, F-22A production would end in 2012.

The missions the self-defense minded Japanese air force might assign the F-22 could differ from those assigned by the US Air Force. The JASDF might delete some of the air-to-ground upgrades planned for future Blocks of the F-22. But InsideDefense.com reported that Lockheed expected to sell Japan a Raptor that is "not that different" from the war planes that would fly with U.S. Air Force markings. "I wouldn't expect a dramatic change" to the fighter's closely held futuristic systems, a Lockheed source said.

The proposal require approval from the Defense and State departments as well as the Congress. The State Department is in charge of approving any sales of US defense systems to other countries, and major sales can be disapproved by the Congress. For years the Pentagon, State Department and Capitol Hill have resisted exporting the Raptor. One concern is that the F-22A's advanced systems could eventually wind up in the hands of potential adversaries, such as China. Before the U.S. would agree to export the F-22 to Japan, the Japanese government would have to agree to restrictions on the re-export of F-22A technologies to other countries. The JSF program was able to resolve its technology transfer issues, making a precedent for export of the F-22A.

Japan has traditionally insisted on building major components of the US planes it buys. US decision-makers may be hesitant to export three major F-22A systems: its avionics architecture; aspects of its low-observable technologies; and its next-generation data links. The fighter's electronic attack, and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) systems may also be at issue.

One of POGO's primary concerns about this deal is security. POGO claims that "the 2000 National Counterintelligence Executive Annual Report to Congress on Foreign Economic Collection and Industrial Espionage noted, the second-most sought after military aircraft technology secret by foreign governments is the F-22." But an examination of that report did not disclose such a claim.

POGO states that "While we acknowledge it is likely that Japan would honor U.S. secrecy arrangements regarding the technology, and do everything possible to protect the F-22 and its systems, we also see the presence of F-22s in Japan as a new opportunity for others interested in acquiring the F-22's secrets to steal them. There is a significant risk that, once the F-22s are delivered to Japan, agents from nearby China (the F-22's oft-cited potential adversary) or other foreign governments could steal F-22 information, allowing China (or anyone else) to build its own version."

To allow the sale, Congress would have to overturn a law that bars such exports. Section 8092 of Public Law No: 106-79 "Making appropriations for the Department of Defense for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2000, and for other purposes", prohibits the use of funds for the license or sale of the F-22 advanced tactical aircraft to any foreign government.

The aircraft's $130 million flyaway cost also makes all but the most serious buyers hesitate. The F-22A's Weapon System Unit Cost is about $170 million. The prospect of foreign sales is attractive because it would allow U.S. taxpayers to recover some development costs.

On 21 February 2006, Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld tacitly confirmed this process was underway: he explained that no proposal had yet reached him and that he was "not up to speed." He said " .... it's a process that the entire government's involved in: the Department of State, the Department of Commerce, the Department of Treasury, the White House, the Department of Defense. And they look at all of the advantages and disadvantages, and they make calculations, and ultimately they decide to do something or not to do something. In this instance, why I'm just simply not up to speed, so I can't -- I can't respond."

Keith Ashdown, policy director at Taxpayers for Common Sense and an F-22A opponent, said foreign sales would undercut the rationale for building the plane. "It flies in the face of the argument that we built it to have sole air superiority," he said. "If our allies can use it to compete with us, our capabilities are no longer unique."

Winslow Wheeler, director of the Center for Defense Information's military reform project, said he regards talk of foreign F-22A sales as a marketing ploy. "The F-22 is under increasing pressure in our own budget," he said. "The Air Force is desperate to push the F-22. Holding out the prospect of foreign sales is a gambit I've seen before. The sale and cost savings may never materialize."

Over the two decades years that the F-22A was in development, the world changed and the capabilities the US Air Force once needed and planned for the F-22A no longer satisfy today's needs. The F-22A was developed to replace the F-15 air superiority aircraft. The continued need for the F-22A, the quantities required, and modification costs to perform its mission have been the subject of a continuing debate within DOD and the Congress. Critics argue that the Soviet threat it was originally designed to counter no longer exists and that its remaining budget dollars could be better invested elsewhere. Paradoxically, Japan now faces in Asia much the same threat that the F-22 was initially projected to face in Europe: large numbers of Su-27 Flankers, in the hands of Chinese rather than Soviet pilots.

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Page last modified: 01-07-2021 17:55:23 ZULU