Just saw this. Implications could be huge, if Japan is willing to pay the tooling/restart cost for an F-22A while we bring online an upgraded F-22 as a result. The question is, will Congress/CSAF/DoD ever be able to tear their eyes away from the F-35 to seize the opportunity?
Lockheed Should Restart the Raptor Line If Japan Wants An F-22-F-35 Hybrid
Geopolitical trends, security concerns, and industrial and combat aircraft capability needs, could give birth to an American-Japanese Raptor 2.0.
By Tyler Rogoway
Reuters has published a report that came as little surprise to us at The War Zone regarding Tokyo's interest in having Japanese industry work with Lockheed Martin to develop a semi-indigenous fighter that combines the best attributes of the F-35 Lightning and F-22 Raptor.
The Reuters report states in part:
Although Japan has put forward notional Raptor-like designs, what they could also be talking about here is merging the higher kinematic performance and low-observability of the F-22 with the F-35's smarter attributes—including updated avionics, mission computers, and sensors—as well as new lower-maintenance skin coatings. We at The War Zone have posited exactly this, writing the following in a 2016 article dubbed 'Just Allow The F-22 To Be Exported To Japan Already':
Fast forward a couple years and the F-35 program has progressed past the point of no return and President Trump is looking at pretty much any opportunity it can to boost sales of weapons to allied nations. With this in mind, the chances of such an initiative actually happening have increased dramatically. The biggest question is does Japan have the financial capacity to take down such an expensive project, especially considering other new competing priorities. These include everything from acquiring a cruise missile, to setting up Aegis Ashore ballistic missile defense batteries, to fielding F-35Bs on its helicopter carriers.
The $366M Mitsubishi X-2 technology demonstrator took its final flight last year after a relatively short life. Apparently, technical difficulties impacted the program and it was clear that Japan would need a deep foreign partnership in order to field a stealth fighter that could also benefit Japanese industry:
What's also new is that the USAF has completed a study that looked into what it would cost to put an updated F-22 back into production. The basic findings were:
-Approximately $50 billion to procure 194 additional F-22s
-The total includes an estimate of approximately $7 billion to $10 billion for non-recurring start-up costs and $40.4 billion for aircraft procurement costs
-An estimated cost of $206 million to $216 million per aircraft (the last F-22 produced had a unit cost of $137 million)
That cost may be too high for the USAF to stomach, but for Japan, it's highly unlikely they will be able to field something superior to an updated F-22 for anywhere near less. It's also likely that once the U.S.-specific politics of putting the Raptor back into production are removed from the equation, the cost of doing so would drop.
Lockheed just rolled-out Japan's first of 40 F-35s on order.
But if Japan is willing to buy an updated Raptor instead of developing a near identical but still unique design, clearly doing so would present a mutually beneficial opportunity. If the U.S. would become a minority stakeholder in an F-22 production line restart of sorts, with the intent on buying a number of airframes to bolster the USAF's undersized and cherished F-22 fleet, then the opportunity could work out for both parties.
Once again, the F-35 lobby will be strongly against such a move even though the F-35's future is now assured. Any fighter dollar given to another program is one less spent on it, but the possibility that the USAF could acquire a Raptor 2.0 of sorts without bearing the vast majority of the non-recurring restart and development costs is an incredible proposition. If Japan is looking to buy a couple hundred fighters and the U.S. was to add onto that order, the unit cost for each jet would plummet as well.
As for Japan, it would benefit by realizing lowered unit costs, technology transfer, and also by being a key supplier for certain components of the jets built for both Japan and the United States. The potential to export the jet could also be an added benefit, but this would likely be curtailed by the U.S. in order to protect F-35 sales abroad. But above all else, Japan will be able to lower its risk substantially by buying into an existing and proven airframe, improving upon it, and will benefit from the full backing of the U.S. government and industry in doing so.
Don't think for a second that Japan is not willing to pay through the nose for a semi-indigenous modified fighter design with deep industry offsets. The F-2 ended up costing nearly the price of an F-35A today, and even then its radar proved to be highly problematic. Japan could have bought late-block F-16s for nearly a third of the price of each F-2 while realizing only minimal negative impacts in terms of some capabilities.
Also, keep in mind Donald Trump's extremely close relationship with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Approving Japan to get 'the very best' while also lining the pockets of big defense contractors seems like a very attractive proposition for Donald Trump. And it seems pretty clear that when it comes to weapons export to Japan, Trump is willing and ready to give Abe what he wants.
We will watch how this story develops closely, but if the Pentagon was smart, they would embrace an upgraded F-22 restart with Japan, and if Tokyo is willing to foot the majority of the bill for doing so, the USAF would be nuts not to take advantage of it.