The Japanese government has chosen to purchase forty-two F-35 joint strike fighter planes from the U.S. company Lockheed Martin (NYSE: LMT) in favor of the Eurofighter Typhoon and Boeing’s F/A-18 Super Hornet.
The $8-billion, multi-year contract provides a big boost to Lockheed, while Japan seeks to replace its aging fleet of Boeing F-4 jets.
The development comes as Japan increasingly worries about China’s ever-growing military arsenal, particularly its navy, which has engaged in a number of territorial scuffles with Japanese vessels in recent years.
Moreover, the sudden death of former North Korean leader Kim Jong-il has also raised alarms in Tokyo over regional security.
Japanese Defense Minister Yasuo Ichikawa said that the F-35 is ideal in dealing with the rapidly changing geo-political backdrop in North Asia.
BBC reported that Japan’s order for the aircraft might prompt South Korea to make similar expensive upgrades to its own defense systems.
“From now on, we really have to think about distances and air force strength in Northeast Asia,” Hideshi Takesada, a professor of international relations at Seoul’s Yonsei University, told Bloomberg “This decision reflects the need for stealth and long-distance combat capabilities.”
The U.S. and Israel militaries have already have already contracted to buy F-35s to modernize their defense fleets. Lockheed said it has 700 additional orders for the aircraft from other partner countries, including Italy, Holland, Turkey, Norway, Denmark and Canada.
Lockheed also said South Korea and Singapore are likely to enter into purchase contracts for the F-35.
James Hardy, a London-based analyst at IHS Jane’s DS Forecast. told Bloomberg: “It is a big boost for the program politically. Many partner nations have committed to buying the F-35, but to have it win an external competition will certainly help take the pressure off.”