January 1, 2009 (by Stars and Stripes) - Japan likely will drop its plan to buy the F-22 Raptor stealth fighter as a replacement for its aging F-15 fleet and instead focus on three other candidates, according to U.S. and Japanese media reports.
Its availability is uncertain because of signs that President-elect Barack Obama is leaning toward reducing or even halting production of the costly jet.
Japan’s alternatives include the F-15FX, built in the United States, and the F-35 Lightning II
, produced in the U.S., Britain and elsewhere, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported Tuesday. The Defense Ministry also is considering the Eurofighter Typhoon.
Lockheed Martin builds the F-22 at factories in Georgia and Texas.
No one was available for comment on the matter Tuesday at U.S. Forces Japan headquarters on Yokota Air Base, said Marine Corps Master Sgt. Donald Preston, a USFJ spokesman.
Last week, a high-ranking Japan Defense Ministry official said he felt "strongly" that F-22 production would likely be halted, according to the Yomiuri Shimbun.
On Monday, Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., who sits on the Senate Armed Services Committee, brushed aside talk of the F-22’s demise.
"I believe that production of the F-22 will continue and, at this time, any final decision by Japan not to seek to procure F-22’s is premature," he said in an e-mail to the Journal-Constitution.
However, the incoming Obama administration appears reluctant to continue production of the F-22 because of its price tag, which ranges from $137 million to $300 million, the newspaper reported.
The Air Force originally intended to buy more than 800 F-22s, but that total has been reduced to just over 180, the report stated. Overseas sales would keep production lines moving.
But the Pentagon is concerned about selling the stealth fighter to foreign governments, fearing its state-of-the-art technology could fall into unfriendly hands, the Journal-Constitution reported.
John Pike, director of globalsecurity.org, told the newspaper that Japan needs the F-22 to maintain air superiority over China.