TOKYO, May 20 (Reuters) - Japan may drop the F-35 stealth fighter from a shortlist for the country’s next generation fighter due to a sharp delay in the plane’s development plan, Kyodo agency reported on Friday citing diplomatic and defense sources.
The operational test of the radar-evading F-35 — being developed by Lockheed Martin Corp and Britain, Italy, Netherlands, Turkey, Canada, Australia, Denmark and Norway — is not expected to begin until 2017 and this would not satisfy Japan’s desire to receive delivery of the next fighter by March that year, Kyodo said.
The development of the multi role F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, due to replace various aircraft in the military fleets of both the United States and its partners, has been hampered by delays and ballooning costs. [ID:nN19138761]
If Japan were to drop the F-35 its shortlist will be narrowed down to Boeing Co’s F/A-18 Super Hornet and the Eurofighter Typhoon. Eurofighter is a four-nation consortium of EADS , representing Germany and Spain, Britain’s BAE Systems and Italy’s Finmeccanica .
The Eurofighter Typhoon, used by NATO nations and Saudi Arabia, would be Japan’s first European fighter jet.
But the sources reckon that Japan, which has emphasised coordination with U.S. forces, could pick the F/A-18, Kyodo said.
Japan is looking to make the selection at the end of the year. The new fighter will replace Japan’s aging F-4 Phantoms. (Writing by Shinichi Saoshiro; Editing by Tomasz Janowski)