Japan is likely to drop its attempts to buy state-of-the-art U.S. F-22 Raptor stealth fighter planes since it expects the United States to stop producing them, a newspaper reported on Sunday.
The Japanese government had been trying to persuade the United States to sell it F-22 Raptors to replace its own aging F-15 fleet, despite Washington’s reluctance.
Tokyo, however, is now abandoning the plan amid signs that President-elect Barack Obama’s new administration may halt production of the aircraft, the Daily Yomiuri said, quoting government sources.
“We have a firm impression that its production likely would be halted,” a high-ranking official at the defense ministry was quoted by the daily as saying.
U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates, reappointed to stay in the post under Obama, has said publicly that he favors halting production of the F-22.
Washington is also said to be skeptical about continuing production of the expensive planes due to the financial crisis and declining tax revenues.
U.S. law prohibits export of Raptors as Congress remains anxious over the possible leaking of details of the Raptor’s state-of-the-art technology. They are built to evade radar detection at supersonic speeds.
Japan’s possible alternatives are the Eurofighter Typhoon, jointly developed by NATO members Britain, Italy, Spain and Germany, said the English version of the Yomiuri Shimbun.
Among other candidates are the U.S. fighter F-15FX and the F-35 Lightning II, produced by the United States, Britain and other countries, it reported.
Some ministry officials favor the F-35, a high-performance fighter with sophisticated bombing capabilities, but this plane has not even been deployed so far by U.S. forces, the daily said.
Japan has been officially pacifist since its defeat in World War II but has one of the world’s largest defense budgets and is gradually expanding its military role.