With US F-35s grounded over potential oil leaks and potential buyers retreating and cutting their intended orders, it is crucial for Lockheed Martin to persuade Japan to complete its purchase of the the stealth fighters as soon as possible, says the China Youth Daily.
Dave Scott, Lockheed Martin's director of international customer engagement for F-35s, in an interview with Fuji Television Network dismissed claims that the Russian T-50 and Chinese J-20 qualify as fifth-generation fighters. The US F-35 is the only fifth-generation fighter aircraft that deserves Japanese investment, he said.
Scott said the essential element of fifth-generation fighter aircraft lies not only in their stealth capability but also in the integration of the sensor fusion that allows a boost of 5%-10% to its thrust, 5% to its military rating and 25% to its fuel efficiency. These factors combine to increase its combat radius by 25%-30% and durability by 30%-40%. He further emphasized that new engines and the Multifunction Advanced Data Link developed by the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) — initially planned for sixth-generation fighter aircraft — have instead been adopted and integrated into the F-35, making the plane an ideal bargain for Japan.
The Japanese government is worried about the development cost of the F-35, which has reached US$200 million a plane and is still escalating. Scott has promised that the F-35A negotiated between Japan and Lockheed Martin costs only US$65 million a plane. To Japan, this is like buying a fifth-generation fighter at a fourth-generation price.
Addressing Japan's greatest concern, Russia's T-50 and China's J-20, Scott referred to a report by AFRL that claimed the F-35 is able to outperform its rivals effortlessly by reducing 30%-70% of the fuel load and increasing the supersonic cruising radius by 50%. He also referred to a statement from Boeing, manufacturer of the F/A-18E Hornet, claiming that the T-50 and J-20 as not completely fifth-generation planes.
Scott also refuted the claim that F-35 relies too heavily on stealth. The helmet-mounted display system that provides the pilot with full 360 degree-vision, Scott said, is something that an F-16 pilot totally lacks. Despite a US$460 billion budget from the US Ministry of Defense over the next decade, the Pentagon has insisted on replacing old fighter aircraft with the F-35. This, according to Scott, fully demonstrates the desirability of the plane.
With permission from the US government, Lockheed Martin has proposed to move the final assembly and maintenance of major parts to Japan. The US has also agreed that some parts of the F-35 may be produced in Japan. Scott argued that the F-35's technology will greatly benefit the aviation industry in Japan, citing Italy as the sole other country owning licenses for final assembly and evaluation. Scott also promised training for Japanese pilots and maintenance staff.