TOKYO — Japan’s Ministry of Defense (MoD) said June 29 it had agreed to purchase the first four of 42 Lockheed Martin F-35s and two simulators for 10.2 billion yen ($127.8 million) each, plus parts, for a total cost of 60 billion yen, according to a news release.
The price of the initial four jets in the Letter of Offer and Acceptance singed by the MoD is significantly above the 9.9 billion yen ($124.1 million) agreed to last December, when, in a contentious decision, the ministry selected the advanced but still developmental F-35 to replace its 1960s-era F-4EJs.
After a tough request for proposals review, the MoD opted for 42 of the stealthy F-35s over the flight-proven and less expensive Eurofighter Typhoon and Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet.
The price rise comes in spite of a threat, repeated publicly by then-MoD Minister Naoki Tanaka, that Japan would consider canceling the F-35 purchase if significant troubles and delays emerged. The Pentagon’s January decision to delay orders for 179 F-35s over the next five years as part of defense budget cuts, and an admission by Lockheed that this will boost prices, has caused international concern.
Underscoring Japanese alarm that it might have stuck itself with a steadily worsening deal, Tanaka said at a Feb. 24 news conference the MoD had asked the U.S. to “strictly adhere” to the terms of the agreement, including the original 9.9 billion yen price and 2016 delivery date.
That threat appears to have melted away. Despite the retreat, local defense analyst Shinichi Kiyotani said that because the cost did not rise even higher that might be interpreted as a partial victory for the MoD, which could face an even tougher job suppressing future price rises for the remaining 38 jets if the program suffers further glitches.
“The MoD has got a pretty good price and negotiated well compared to the price rises that might come later,” Kiyotani said.
The planned purchase of the other 38 jets has yet to be formally confirmed.