US gives the green light to Japan’s massive $23B F-35 buy

WASHINGTON — The United States on Thursday approved a planned purchase by Japan of 105 F-35 joint strike fighters, moving the country one step closer to becoming the biggest foreign customer of the Lockheed Martin-produced jet.

The approved package includes 63 F-35A conventional takeoff and landing aircraft and 42 F-35 short takeoff and landing variants, essentially green-lighting the procurement plans spelled out by Japan in 2018.

Japan wants to be an official F-35 partner. The Pentagon plans to say no.

The Defense Security Cooperation Agency notified Congress of the possible sale, which is worth about $23 billion, although that number could change during negotiations between the country and Lockheed Martin. Those negotiations would start after Congress approves the sale.

Also included in the arms deal is: 110 Pratt & Whitney F135 engines, associated electronic warfare and communications systems, the Autonomic Logistics Information System, training gear, infrared flares, a performance-based logistics package, software integration, spare and repairs parts and other support.

If Japan moves forward with the purchase, it would have a total of 147 F-35s — becoming the second-largest operator of the joint strike fighter after the United States and just ahead of the United Kingdom, which plans to buy 138 jets. It would also become the fourth user of the F-35B variant, which is being bought by U.S. Marine Corps, the United Kingdom’s Royal Air Force and the Italian Navy.

Several other sales were also announced on Thursday:

Taiwan: The State Department has approved a request by Taiwan to recertify its Patriot Advanced Capability-3 missiles for an estimated cost of $620 million. The package includes replacing PAC-3 components that are near expiration, test and repair of the capability, spare parts for ground support equipment and other logistics support. According to DSCA, “this proposed sale will help sustain the recipient’s missile density and ensure readiness for air operations. The recipient will use this capability as a deterrent to regional threats and to strengthen homeland defense.” Lockheed Martin would be the prime contractor for this sale.

Germany: If approved by Congress, Germany would get MK 54 All Up Round Lightweight torpedoes, 10 conversion kits and related equipment in a package worth about $130 million. The deal, which help upgrade Germany’s P-3C submarine hunting planes, also includes fuel tanks for the torpedo conversion kits, spare parts, launch accessories for the aircraft and various logistics and program support. Raytheon would be the prime contractor for this purchase.

Belgium: The State Department also authorized Belgium’s request for 29 All Up Round MK 54 LWT Mod 0 torpedoes. The $33 million package includes two Fleet Exercise Section conversion kits, torpedo support equipment, and logistics support. The approval comes as Belgium phases out MK 46 torpedoes and begins using the MK 54 aboard its NH-90 helicopters and multi-mission frigates.

Aaron Mehta in Washington contributed to this report.

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