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F-2 / FSX - Background

During the Cold War the US forward-deployed defense strategy in Northeast Asia was based on a division of roles and missions between US and Japanese forces. The US was pledged to provide the protective nuclear umbrella and conventional offensive forces as necessary in the Northwest Pacific. Japan is responsible for the defense of its territory and, in conjunction with US forces, the air and sealanes out to 1,000 nautical miles. Japan also provides rent-free bases and substantial financial support to US forces. Japan's ability to blunt an attack, defend itself and, in doing so, allow US forces the time and protection necessary to conduct decisive defensive counterstrikes was crucial to the security of both the United States and Japan.

The US Department of Defense strongly supported Japan's efforts to acquire a new ?ghter capable of meeting the expected threat in the geopolitically vital Northwest Pacific in the late 1990s and beyond. Japan had a legitimate need for a new support ?ghter aircraft to replace its aging F-l aircraft. For several months, General Dynamics, McDonnell-Douglas, and other builders vigorously tried to sell their aircraft off-the-shelf to meet Japan's need. The US Department of Defense supported these efforts. Japan, however, sought to build its own aircraft.

Though this option was not the optimal one from the American viewpoint, it was not unlike what the US had encountered elsewhere. DOD found in its analysis of the Free World global fighter competition that many European nations and Israel were developing indigenous fighter aircraft: France was developing the Rafale, Sweden the Gripen, Israel the Lavi, and the UK, Germany, Spain, and Italy were developing the European fighter aircraft. DOD attempted to forestall these costly and duplicative programs by offering US fighter aircraft technology and American industrial participation. All such efforts failed, with the exception of the Lavi, which was to be funded by the American taxpayer. Israel was ultimately persuaded to cancel the Lavi because of the high cost involved.

Given this background and the fact that DOD's assessment at the time was that Japan possessed the requisite money, skilled labor force, and manufacturing base to attempt indigenous development, it was understandable that Japan intended to do so. DOD argued that existing American aircraft met Japanese requirements. The Japanese responded that the anticipated future mission and design requirements of the aircraft were such that no existing off-the-shelf aircraft would suffice. While the US Joint Chiefs of Staff did, for the most part, validate Japan's mission requirements, the US govemment could not dictate to Japan the design criteria by which the FSX was to be judged. DOD argued that American aircraft were the most cost-effective and most rapidly available solution to their aircraft needs. These points previously were raised at the highest levels of the Japanese govemment by then Secretaries of Defense Weinberger and Carlucci, and senior State Department and White House officials on several occasions.

But an off-the-shelf purchase of an American aircraft was never a likely choice for Japan. Japan never has bought aircraft off-the-shelf when significant numbers of planes are involved. The Japanese have always either attempted indigenous development, as with the F-1, or entered into a licensed production agreement, as in the cases of the F-4, F-15, and P-3. From both the military and economic points of view, it makes sense to manufacture fighter aircraft in your own country in order to be able to provide sustainability of the force as well as to keep aerospace workers employed.

Finally, after quiet, high-level discussions, Japan agreed that some form of co-development / co-production with the US government should be seriously considered. The Japanesetook into account budgetary constraints, the advantage of interoperability with US forces, and the potentially adverse effect that unilateral development could have on Japan's long-term defense relationship with the US. The Senate Armed Services Committee, in its May 1988 report on the FY89 defense authorization bill, agreed that this altemative codevelopment based on an existing US aircraft was the most workable approach at that point.

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Page last modified: 11-07-2011 03:22:46 ZULU