LE BOURGET, France — As part of Japan's strategy to expand defense exports, it's looking to the United States to take part in a cooperation for the resale of used aircraft to Southeast Asia.
The prospect follows initial success from Japan's decision to lease TC-90 aircraft to the Philippines to conduct maritime patrols, which were reportedly used during the recent battle against Islamic State militants. Overseeing that program was Takahiro Yoshida, director of the Aircraft Project Management division in the Acquisition, Technology and Logistics Agency at the Japanese Ministry of Defense, who estimated eight visits to the Philippines in the process.
"We want to further explore opportunities for providing used aircraft to ASEAN countries with package support. I cannot name the exact countries, but we have a dialogue with several and want to explore possibilities of trilateral cooperation with the U.S., Japan and ASEAN countries," Yoshida said in an exclusive interview with Defense News at Paris Air Show. "TC-90s are gone — already sold. So we’re now exploring other components from used helicopters and other used aircraft."
(ASEAN, or the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, is an international organization made up of regional countries meant for community-building.)
That is one of many strategies to build a defense manufacturing market, perhaps outshined by the current state of Japan’s fighter program. Yoshida said Japan is "having discussions with many countries" as the time quickly approaches for deciding how it will replace the F-2 fighters: through an international buy, an indigenous development,or jointly partnering with other countries.
Japan’s F-2s are going to retire after the mid-2030s. The country plans to decide by next summer how it will proceed for replacing the fleet. And China is factoring into the decision.
"Of course we understand China is very active in development of the next fighter, and we always want to be beyond Chinese technology; we want technology superiority over China always," Yoshida told Defense News.
This concept of defense manufacturing for export is relatively new for Japan, which has long been restricted in research and development to the United States. That policy was eased recently, allowing the country to explore more opportunities for international partnership.
"Policies are decided by politicians, not us," he said. "But in Japan, the government as a whole, we want to expand our exports and overseas transfer."
On display in Paris was the P-1, a maritime patrol aircraft that entered service as a replacement for the P-3C Orion.
"The P-3 has sensor technologies, so we need to be careful of exporting the aircraft," Yoshida said. "The conditions of providing the P-1s [are that] the country has good technology that we can jointly modify for the aircraft, the information security is carefully ensured and it’s a partner country for Japan."