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Japan to buy new fleet of next-generation jet fighters


08:22, December 13, 2011

TOKYO, Dec. 12 (Xinhua) -- Japanese Defense Minister Yasuo Ichikawa said on Monday that the government is nearing a decision on which model of fighter jet will replace the Air Self-Defense Force's aged fleet of F-4 fighters.

Speaking at a news conference Ichikawa said that a team from within his ministry had shortlisted three fighters and was currently analyzing performance, price and maintenance variables, with a report by the chief of staff of the Air Self-Defense Force, Shigeru Iwasaki, to be submitted to the defense chief forthwith.

The ministry may make its final decision as early as Friday and as many as 50 new fighter jets will be purchased to replace the 40- year-old fleet of F-4's, with the shortlist including Boeing's FA- 18 Super Hornet, Lockheed Martin's F-35 Lightning II jet and the Eurofighter Typhoon.

Lockheed Martin's F-35 Lightning II jet, revered as being a next-generation fighter equipped with stealth and V-TOL technology, has been earmarked by the ministry as a strong candidate, as has the Eurofighter Typhoon fighter. Boeing's FA-18 Super Hornet is also in the running and its predecessors have a long service history with the U.S. air force and navy.

Japan's current fleet of McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom jets were originally developed for the U.S. Navy by McDonnell Aircraft and first entered service with the U.S. Navy in 1960.

While the U.S. took its F-4's out of service in 1996 following a successful deployment during the Gulf War, Japan continued to use the 40-year-old jets for training and reconnaissance missions.

Of the new jets being eyed all three offer superlative air-to- air and air-to-ground capabilities and can carry impressive payloads of ordnance. The F-35 has the added advantage of being able to greatly reduce its signature on radar due to its stealth- capable technologies.

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