Not too long ago, Richard D. Fisher Jr. writing for The Washington Times, argued in favor of letting Japan in on the groundbreaking F-22 fighter aircraft. Current American law prohibits Lockheed-Martin from selling the plane overseas.
According to Fisher there were two good reasons for letting Japan have the Raptor. “First,” he wrote, “the F-22 will be the only combat aircraft capable of countering China’s expected fifth-generation fighters.” With something of an Asian naval race already underway, selling Japan what is quite probably the most sophisticated fighter plane of our generation might discourage any dreams of acquiring nuclear weapons of which there were rumors last year. That, notes Fisher, is reason number two. “If Washington cannot provide decisive nonnuclear means to deter China, Japan may more quickly consider decisive deterrents such as missiles and nuclear weapons.”
No one can quite be sure what aircraft China is working on but in all likelihood it considers the F-35 stealth multirole fighter as its foremost of future adversaries. No wonder, for besides the United States, Australia, Canada, Denmark, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Turkey and the United Kingdom are all participating in the Joint Strike Fighter program.
Although the F-22 is a better plane, the Americans are now considering to allow Japan to take part in the Joint Strike Fighter program instead. Washington may allow Tokyo to participate in the project even without assurances from Japan that it will procure the F-35, reported Kyodo News quoting sources from both governments.
The move might be interpreted as a reassurance toward Japan that the traditional alliance with America is still in place as far as Washington is concerned. The newly-elected Democratic Party of Japan signaled last autumn that it might operate more independently of the United States than it used to. The country is growing more and more dependent on China in economic terms while many in Washington many still seem to fear the communist powerhouse before anything else.
Moreover, for many decades has America shared with Japan its latest defense technologies, giving the country a significant advantage over other East Asian powers. Refusing Japan to have both the F-22 and the F-35 could be taken as offensive in Tokyo and as a sign that the United States no longer consider the country the most important of its partners in the region.
Of course, one can question whether with the current budget troubles Japan should invest in a massively expansive fighter program that have yet to turn out any actual fighters. There have been rumors about Japan being interested in the Eurofighter for some years now. Not only might it be comparatively cheaper but also available now (since Japan needs to replace the F-4 in its arsenal) and able to counter any known Chinese threat.
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