The Japanese government has entered into an agreement with the United States Defense Department to purchase its first four F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter jets built by Lockheed Martin Corp., with some additional peripheral equipment, for 60 billion yen ($756.53 million) according to a Lockheed Martin spokesperson. Japan has signed and sent its letter of offer and acceptance, which stipulated four conventional takeoff, multirole, fifth-generation fighter jets at a cost of 10.2 billion yen ($128.61 million) a piece, which was slightly higher than the 9.9 billion yen ($124.83 million) that Japan had originally budgeted for. The price of the two training simulators, extra engines, and other related equipment had gone down from the expected 20.5 billion yen ($258.48 million) so the overall cost of the package was still only 60 billion yen.
The F-35 is a single-seat, single-engine, fifth-(latest)-generation, multirole fighter with stealth capabilities, which is able to perform in ground attack, air defense, and reconnaissance capacities. The fighter was originally developed for the Unites States, and eight partner countries—Britain, Australia, Canada, Italy, Turkey, the Netherlands, Denmark, and Norway. With development and procurement costs estimated at $396 billion over the next twenty years, it is the United States’ biggest weapons program. The Japanese government was reportedly hesitant to go ahead with this new F-35 fighter, as it considered it among two other fifth generation fighter options, but apparently changed its mind after a highly classified briefing about the F-35’s capabilities and its performance in various training exercises.
The 60 billion yen for the F-35 package will come out of Japan’s fiscal 2012 budget, and the fighters will be delivered in 2016. Japan’s Air Self Defense Force (ASDF) plans to purchase a total of 42 of the jets. Concerned over the US and Australia’s postponement of their orders for F-35s, and doubts over South Korea’s plans to buy 60 of the fighters, and how these factors might affect prices and availability, Japan warned the US Defense Department that if costs went up, or deliveries were delayed, it might scrap its plans for further procurement.