Japan’s defense ministry plans to request billions of dollars to upgrade its F-15 fighter jets and develop its own stealth fighter since Washington is reluctant to sell its advanced Raptor fighters to its Asian ally.The ministry is asking for a 4.82 trillion yen ($41.6 billion) budget for the fiscal year beginning next April, an increase of 0.7 percent from this year, officials said.The budget request, announced Aug. 31, must be approved by the government as part of its draft budget in December and then enacted by parliament by the end of March.It includes a request for 112 billion yen to upgrade 32 F-15 fighter jets. Japan has about 200 F-15s and only eight of them have been upgraded so far.The ministry wants to upgrade the F-15s to be competitive with neighboring countries, such as China and North Korea, at least until Japan finds successors to its aging fighter fleet, officials said.Chinese Defence Minister Cao Gangchuan, on a rare visit to Japan this week, has sought to ease Tokyo’s concerns about Beijing’s huge military buildup, but mutual mistrust runs deep.China — seeking to modernize its huge but often poorly equipped military force of over 2 million personnel so it can extend its strategic reach — has said it would increase defense spending by 17.8 percent to about $45 billion in 2007.Worries about North Korea also persist after Pyongyang tested its first nuclear weapon last year, despite progress toward implementing a disarmament deal struck in February.A Japanese air force official said that although the F-15s are major players, they are “lagging behind the global trend.”br /br /strongRAPTOR, THE BEST CHOICE?/strongbr /Japan’s defense ministry wants to buy Lockheed Martin’s radar-evading F-22s (Raptors), as well as Boeing F-15FX fighters to replace its aging F-4EJ fighter fleet.But current U.S. law bans exports of the Raptor, Washington’s most advanced stealth fighter, for security reasons.Japanese defense officials still figure the Raptor, which is equipped for ground attack, electronic attack and eavesdropping, was the best replacement to deal with regional threats.But they have not ruled out selecting European-made rivals to the F-22, which carry a $136 million price tag.Possible alternatives include the Eurofighter Typhoon, built by a consortium headed by BAE Systems, Europe’s largest defense firm, and France’s Rafael fighter.”Whether we continue to upgrade remaining F-15s beyond the next fiscal year depends on the situation involving the selection of next-generation fighter jets,” a ministry official said.In the face of U.S. resistance to exports of the cutting edge fighter, the ministry will seek 15.7 billion yen for research and development on home-made radar-evading fighter jets.”We may be able to have a bargaining chip in our negotiations with the U.S. by demonstrating the possibility of Japan developing fighter jets on its own,” another official said.The ministry is also seeking 158 billion yen for missile defense, including the purchase of ground-based PAC-3 interceptors worth 9.7 billion yen.The budget request also included proposed purchases of one 5,000-ton destroyer, one 2,900-ton diesel submarine, one 570-ton mine sweeper and four patrol helicopters.The army wants funds to buy nine tanks, one fighter helicopters and two transport helicopters.

Spread This Content