Japan chooses the F-35; India still evaluating second-best and third-best options! - Broadsword by Ajai Shukla - Strategy. Economics. Defence.

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Tuesday 20 December 2011

Japan chooses the F-35; India still evaluating second-best and third-best options!

As security concerns mount amongst Western Pacific nations, Japan's MoD opts for the F-35A Lightening II for its F-X future fighter programme

Japan's Ministry of Defence (MoD) confirmed today the purchase of 42 F-35A Lightning II fighters for its F-X future fighter aircraft programme. The cost of the contract is $4.7 billion, which adds up to a per-unit cost of US $113 million per fighter.

Japan is the latest F-35 customer, after Tel Aviv's purchase of
the fighter in October 2011 as the Israeli Air Force’s (IAF) next generation fighter aircraft. The programme was earlier joined by nine partner nations, comprising the US, the UK, Italy, the Netherlands, Turkey, Canada, Australia, Denmark and Norway.

In a statement the Japanese cabinet today said: “The government shall acquire 42 units of the F-35A after fiscal 2012 in order to replenish and to modernise the current fleet of fighters held by the Air Self-Defense Force.”

According to Lockheed Martin, the initial contract will be for four jets in Japan Fiscal Year 2012, which begins 1 April 2012. Japan’s Defence Minister Yasuo Ichikawa stated today that he is confident that his country will receive the first fighters within the agreed time-frame.

Tokyo has chosen the F-35 over the F/A-18 Super Hornet and the Eurofighter Typhoon, as a part of its F-X tender. The JSF will replace Japan's fleet of 117 F-4 Phantom II, which have been in service with the Japan Air Self-Defense Force (JASDF) since 1968.

According to AFP, the F-35 bid was the most expensive of the three, with its price tag of $US113 million per aircraft.

But it was selected, says Japan's defence minister, Yasuo Ichikawa, for the qualitatively superior capabilities that it provides. Ichikawa says, “It is a fighter with capacity to respond to the changing security environment."

Due to its technical complexity, it has become the most expensive weapons programme in the history of the U.S. Department of Defence (DoD) and has been troubled by increasing costs and delays.

Japan’s decision cannot but be seen in the context of an increasingly unstable security environment in the Far East. China’s military build-up goes hand-in-hand with growing tensions between the US and China over the western Pacific area. The F-35 selection has been announced a day after news broke of the death of North Korean leader, Kim Jong Il.


  1. how does f-35 compare to pakfa?
    maybe one reason india does not want f-35 is because it is already expecting amca and fgfa?
    mr shukla ?

  2. Ajay

    Always wondered why you are favouring F-35. Lets not follow Japanese, Americans or Russians. They are all opportunists out to make money & deny technology transfer.Let GTRE, HAL & everyone else put their head together & come out with a sixth generation fighter & bomber


  3. Sir i back your idea only if we get TOT for F-35 which i am sure they wont provide...

    Plz explain us what will india lose if it dont get TOT...

    That's the only point of consideration between MMRCA and F-35...!!!

  4. Some one need to clear the leftover too.

  5. best wishes... and best of luck... to JASDF... with their lightning II's... III's... IV's... till they get it right...

  6. Here goes Shukla again! If only you did some research. The truth behind the JSF is so easy to find, for those who have not shut their eyes:








  7. " 113 million per plane"?? But you promised us 65 million in your earlier article. Can you please explain? Why this massive 48 million dollar difference.......

  8. IAF is a professional force with years of experience. Their choice of aircraft and tactics used during war are fine examples of their professionalism and expertise over the Indian conditions and neighbourhood (Gnat over Sabres, Su-30MKI etc.)

    IAF has conducted an extensive evaluation of the aircrafts for MMRCA and will chose the one most suitable to their operational and threat environment, than a gold-plated weaponry. Mr. Shukla, plz stop peddling the F-35... IAF knows its requirements better

  9. I'm sure their decision had nothing to do with the work share agreements and US pressure. Japan has always been a buyer of US defense products.


  10. Tell me Colonel,
    honestly how much disturbed are you by the comments by your readers !

    Do you care for them? Do they shake your basic faith or shall I say your basics at times. How much they contribute to your basic understanding of things or add to the quality of your investigations? Or most of them are irritating you and you fall in disgust that people even do not understand basics?

    Please be true! Do respond please.

  11. Ajaiji, would you go and buy something for your house just because your neighbour bought it. And again, jjust because someone bought it doesnt necessarily mean its going to be useful for you. Also budget matters.

  12. Atleast the price tag now is 113 million as compared to your previous sales pitch of about 65 million.

    I wonder if you consider your so called sources now.... and please don't say that this is still less than that or Typhoon. LOL!!

  13. was the f-35 even offered to india? all the news reports kept saying 16's and 18's

  14. @ Prabhakar

    Am completely in agreement with your observation that every country would like to deny technology transfer. Without detracting from that point, it is one that even a child would know.

    The mistake that so many of our "defence experts" make is to believe that --- just because the Americans are quite frank about this and have legislated this into an ITAR regime --- they are the only ones who deny technology. With the Americans, what you see is what you get. The others, especially the Russians, will sign a ToT agreement and then deny key technologies in flagrant violation of the contract. Look at the T-90 gun and turret armoured technologies that they continue to deny us.

    The Europeans are no better. Sweet talk, but no key technologies. Look at the Scorpene submarine.

    So I agree that you need to encourage GTRE, HAL etc get their act together and come out with --- as you say --- a 6th generation fighter and bomber. But until that comes, you need something to fly. And that is why India is buying the MMRCA.

    My simple argument is: don't buy the MMRCA, but a better, more advanced, cheaper fighter-bomber developed by a country that has more experience of new-gen warfighting than the rest of the world put together. And that is the F-35.

  15. @ Anonymous 22:26

    Your comment: "113 million per plane"?? But you promised us 65 million in your earlier article. Can you please explain? Why this massive 48 million dollar difference......."

    Let's be accurate here. I didn't promise you 65 million per plane; Lockheed Martin's senior executive, Orville Prins did.

    But having clarified that, let me also explain what you think is a $48 million difference. The Japanese price of $4.7 billion is for the entire contract, including spares, training, simulators, infrastructure, weaponry, maintenance backup, etc. Even loading all of those extras onto the cost of the aircraft, it comes to $113 million per F-35. Clearly, as even a novice can see, the fly-away cost of the F-35s that Japan is buying, is significantly less than $113 million.

    To illustrate this for you... if the $4.7 billion total contract price has a component of $1.7 billion for all the extras that I mention above (and it is actually likely to be higher than that), the 42 fighters themselves come to just $71 million.

    That's a lot closer to the $65 million price that Lockheed Martin has given me (and several other writers, if you Google and check). And they explain that (I checked!) by pointing out that the cost of production of the F-35 is falling every day. They are in their fourth year of production, and the manufacturing practices (again, typically American) that they have instituted result in a continuous fall in prices. By the time an Indian order is delivered, the fly-away cost of the F-35 will definitely be below $65 million, says Lockheed Martin.

    Just to transpose the Japanese calculation of $113 million per aircraft onto the MMRCA bids... it is now quite clear that the bids are in the $15-20 billion range. Even taking the lower figure of $15 billlion for 126 fighters, it amounts to $119 million per fighter.

    But that figure, also, is not a fly-away cost. I am using this example only to illustrate that the $113 million "price" of the F-35 is still cheaper than the MMRCA.

  16. @ Anonymous 00:04

    You ask a very angst-ridden question: "how much disturbed are you by the comments by your readers"?

    I'm never "disturbed" by their comments, nor do I "fall in disgust that people do not understand even the basics", as you put it.

    But I am certainly surprised by how many are hostages of the past, and trapped by ideology in choosing their defence equipment.

    I am not an ideologue, I'm a realist. I very much acknowledge the strategic assistance that Soviet Russia provided us for decades (not for love, but for strategic benefit) and the strategic assistance that Russia continues to provide us. At the same time, I can see that they are today sharks who are taking us to the cleaners in multiple contracts. And so they need to be treated with at least as much suspicion as we treat the Americans.

    Similarly, I am fully aware of the details of US technology denial over decades and the fact that their defence equipment comes with a raft of legally binding conditions. But, as I said earlier about the US, what you see is what you get. If any MoD lawyer would care to go through the US ITAR regimes and the Dept of Commerce export regulations (and nobody has actually done that!), you can predict exactly what Washington is going to do. They will go by the letter of the law... not a penny more, not a penny less.

    That's something! At least you know what you're dealing with... and can modify your buy strategy accordingly.

    There is no ideology for me. If I am buying my air force a transport aircraft, I don't give a f*@k that Nixon sent the 7th Fleet to the Bay of Bengal in 1971. I want the best. And only a nitwit would pass up the C-130J and the C-17 because America imposed sanctions on us after the nuclear tests of 1974.

    That's not strategy! The first tenet of strategy is knowing the enemy... and the enemy, in defence procurement, is the seller. As long as you know the enemy, you can buy the best for yourself.

    So, to get back to your question, I'm a bit amused by the way some readers mix up defence procurement with ideology and historical vendetta. But I'm too busy to hate them!!!

  17. Hello Ajai,

    I agree with your point / argument that with americans, mostly likely you get what they promise, when compared with others who promise big things and then give only that much which Americans Promised. Then again americans might have another problem. During war, they may not extend support for their products if pakistan is involved.

    Cassidian was telling that they will give Engine technology if typhoon is selected. LOL...They would be stupid if they do that and we would be stupid if we believe them. Nobody will give anything like this, atleast americans are frank about this...

    then again, Rheinmetal didn't give south korea the Gun technology just because it is fitted in their tank. Afterall, Why have one more competition!. It was our cunning negotiators who believed that they would get tech
    for seeker and engine in Bhramos, Gun Techonology for T-90 and what not. (which could be reverse engineered / copied to fit into Arjun).

    Coming back to the topic, It is too late now for F-35 to get into the competition and there is no clear picture as to when it would be fully operational. It would be better to go with something which currently FULLY operational rather than waiting for something which is not!!

    Moreover, the government should get into written agreements / contracts signed by all parties to get everything clear as what all technologies are transferred and what kind of work would be done here in india...so that they dont back track later (ofcourse dont expect critical technologies related to Radar/engine etc from anyone). Even Inida won't give if it was developed in India!!.

    There are pitfalls everywhere and with everyone, for now we shouldn't be too dependent on anyone. Use russian weapons for any confict involving pakistan, and use western weapons involving any conficts with china. Then there won't be "spare part problems"..hehe

    -Sudheendra S

  18. Col - i sense scrapping of MMRCA happening but politically it will be suicidal for this Govt. to do. So, it seems that MMRCA will miss deadline till 2014.

  19. The others, especially the Russians, will sign a ToT agreement and then deny key technologies in flagrant violation of the contract.--- This line shows how competent you are . wondering how you belong to army or whole of army have officers like you only which is not.

  20. "Look at the T-90 gun and turret armoured technologies that they continue to deny us." ---

    Dude you seriously need to go through the contract 1st then spread this well thought out information

  21. Are you aware of TERMS LIKE


    which basically led to F 16 and F 18
    being thrown out from MMRCA

  22. Did you do NDA course or you direcly went to IMA FROM YOUR HOME

    SU 30 MKI is our BEST Today

    BUT Eurofighter and Rafale are BETTER

    PAK FA MAY BE Better than Either of the THREE ie SU 30 mki Eurofighter and Rafale


  23. Ajaiji,

    no one can shake your faith in the jsf, but i guess you can read loads about its problems, its a cheap halfass 5th gen plane meant to be sold worldwide, with huge strings in form of maintenance leading to more money for the JOINT DEFENSE INDUSTRIAL COMPLEX. no matter if it has to get a makeup after every few flight to maintain its composure, and a very low service level, or its pathetic reach and abilities, we in India still need to buy it, although there is no real practicality. look here, some old source, even aussies worry about the potency of jsf against flankers http://www.ausairpower.net/APA-Flanker.html#mozTocId528611

    take care

  24. Don't look now, Ajai, but the F-35 has been found to be riddled with 13 serious flaws that could cost upwards of a billion dollars to fix in the existing fleet alone.

    All the ultracool toys that you seem to be dazzled by barely work.

    And I love the way you happily brandish the term "fourth year of production" to imply that the plane is fully tested and in mass-production, when nothing could be farther than the truth.

    And how do you know that the $113 million is not the fly-away cost?

  25. Ajai-ji,

    I agree with you argument hat when dealing with the US, what you see is what you get. I am not convinced that our armed forces or the MOD is not bought into this, I think the bigger issues is that our babus are spineless and therefore they will not take a stand on this or openly discuss this because they are worried about opposition making a political issues out of this and that could make them lose their seat. In my view it's the general public that is made to believe that US is the bad guy because they sell weapons to Pakistan. Who doesn't : French sell subs, planes, and so do many others. We never say that they cannot sell us anything because they do business with our neighbor. Russians can screw us on the Vic, T90, engines for our trainer, SU-30 contract, etc. etc., and so can the Brits and other Europeans. But, for some reason, we are willing to ignore all that. We are so crazy for ToT, that we ignore that fact that the ToT for last several decades have not made is technically advance enough to even build an engine for the LCA, or the ALH or the Arjun. The LCA was made with our own blood, sweat, toil and tears, and I am proud of that achievement. To get high tech, there are no ToT short cuts, we must work for that. The Americans are willing to say that to our face vs the Russians and The Europeans would rather bait and switch. When are we going to learn. When are our babus going to stand-up for what is right. When are our military leaders going to come out and express their views rather than staying low in order to hang on to power for as long as possible. This is just ridiculous.

  26. Where did you get the 4.7 billion $ quote? most sources say the value of the whole contract is 8 billion.

  27. Foriegn money/propoganda machine at its best. This is the fifth time they are trying to sell junk. I am so off the blog from now own. Good luck to salesman like you for the future decision is tommorrow.

  28. well...

    u said that for US...wat u see is wat u get...partly true bt not completely...US really has strong propaganda campaigns...

    for example..the F-22 Raptor...it was over-hyped as the "BEST AIRCRAFT" etc etc...now we all know wat its condition is...no doubt for combat its gr8...bt after that...not being able to fly at low altitude, excessive maintenance, Oxygen Mask defect etc etc...

    bt at the same time it should be noted...US is relatively more responsible to ban the export of that aircraft since it has a reputation to protect...

    moreover...IAF ryt now needs a totally ready, battle proven plane for its replacing the Mig 21s as they have already been abt 40 yrs in service (if i am not wrong)..

    the F-35 Lightning II project already running 4 yrs behind schedule and quite over-budget is almost at the same stage of development where our own LCA Tejas is (not going into technicalities)...

    moreover...F-35 is an awesome plane...bt at the same time india is developing the FGFA with russia and is about to develop the amca on its own...dunno abt latter...bt for the former one...u get a very similar plane for a much cheaper price...bt then at the same time...its the RUSSIAN quality..similar to chinese...chale toh chand tak, warna shaam tak...

    F 35 is a pretty expensive plane...and already with the rule that if a foreign vendor wants to sell his defence equipment to india...it should invest 30 percent of the deal amount back to india...thats one of the reasons defence deals in india are over priced...so if its 113 million per unit for Japan...it will be much more costlier for india

    so i conclude by saying...its an absolute stalemate for now...bt as time changes...who knows what may happen...india is full of surprises...esp in defence

    NOTE: i havent spoken about corruption which is likely to persist...

  29. The reason for the Japanese choosing the F-35 was that they were impressed with its stealth features and the ability to remain invisible on radar. Even with generous ToT F-35 wont be available before 2016-17. therefore instead of procuring 126+63 MMRCAs the IAF should buy a smaller number( of either Rafale or Typhoon) and reconsider the F-35 sometime in future.AMCA is only a paper plane it would be relevant only after 2022 if all goes well. Many countries will opt for the F-35 .How good will be the Russian PAKFA fighter? Except one or two nations nobody is inclined to buy rafale or typhoon.The French are counting on aircraft orders from Brazil, India and UAE. whereas the Typhoon has lost in Switzerland, Oman and in Japan.

  30. Sir you have a LOT of Knowledge about F 35

    Are you aware of the HUGE WAITING LIST of MORE than 2000 aircraft

  31. Japan is China's POODLE

    USA is responsible for Japan's security

    SO it is BUT NATURAL that Countries like Japan South Korea Taiwan UAE
    and Israel will buy US PLANES

  32. Do they TEACH SHREWEDNESS to OUR Military officers in IMA etc or

    Because you have a very very
    SIMPLISTIC opinion about F 35

    IF we select F 35 USA will TROUBLE us and give us NOTHING AS REVENGE for rejecting F 16 and
    F 18

    WHEREAS we LOOSE whatever we are GAINING from PAK FA

  33. Chandragupta Maurya25 December 2011 at 23:14

    " the facts regarding this F-35 programme are truly troubling. No programme should expect to be continued with that kind of track record, especially in our current fiscal climate. It seems to me we have to start at least considering alternatives." US Senator John McCain - ranking member Senate Arms Services Committee.

    " These F-35 prices are dismaying; indeed, they are disturbing numbers in costs to us and to the taxpayers of the United States. We cannot sacrifice other important acquisitions in the DoD investment portfolio to pay for this JSF capability." Chairman Senator Carl Levin - Senate Arms Services Committee.

  34. Re Ajai

    If you can get the figures of EF bid in Japan compared to F-35, then you will be able to place your case better

  35. I don't know why Mr Antony such a great person still doing the work Mr Manmohan Singh if we Directly Import the Kit of Rafale fighter jet the and tight the screw as order of France Dessault the what kind of True Technology we getting I think how to tight the screw of Rafale fighter jet I trust u Mr A.K Antony do the work for which we proud on u not feel same as our Defense Minister because when french firm make their Rafale fighter lonely so atleast by getting True TOT we can Manufacture all the Part on our Mother Land be Proud to be an Indian

  36. I don't know why Mr Antony such a great person still doing the work Mr Manmohan Singh if we Directly Import the Kit of Rafale fighter jet the and tight the screw as order of France Dessault the what kind of True Technology we getting I think how to tight the screw of Rafale fighter jet I trust u Mr A.K Antony do the work for which we proud on u not feel same as our Defense Minister because when french firm make their Rafale fighter lonely so atleast by getting True TOT we can Manufacture all the Part on our Mother Land be Proud to be an Indian


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