Japan will be developing its next-generation fighter jet, the Mitsubishi F-3, in conjunction with American companies. The F-3 is set to replace the currently serving Mitsubishi F-2 starting in the 2030s.
In the last few years, there have been rumours of a possible UK-Japan joint development program for the F-3, but an article recently published by Japanese news outlet Sankei News suggests the Japanese government has chosen not to continue working with British companies. It did this over concerns related to other countries’ participation in the development of Britain’s own 6th gen fighter, the Tempest, and concerns of future interoperability issues with US military equipment.
Interoperability between the US military and the Japanese Self-Defense Forces is a cornerstone of the two nations’ defense strategies in the region. The F-3 will be Japan’s first indigenously produced stealth aircraft, and design assistance from the US will certainly make the integration of American weapons to the aircraft much easier. Another key area of integration is the aircraft’s ability to share the “picture” created by its sensors with friendly aircraft, especially with Airborne Early Warning and Control (AWACS). The data collected by the advanced sensors of 5th gen jets like the F-35 already provides a massive boost in the situational awareness of the AWACS, which in turn increases the situational awareness and therefore effectiveness of all friendly aircraft that can talk to the AWACS.
The ability to contribute so massively to the efforts of all aircraft in their area of operations is perhaps the greatest feature 5th gen jets bring to the table, and fighters of the 6th generation will without a doubt only improve in this regard.