Japan Selects Lockheed’s F-35 as Next-Gen Aircraft; 42 Jet Agreement Could Top $4B

The Japanese government has selected Lockheed Martin‘s (NYSE: LMT) F-35, the Joint Strike Fighter,  as Japan’s next-generation fighter aircraft, ending a multi-year vetting process that considered aircraft from several American and European firms.

The Wall Street Journal reports Lockheed’s agreement is for 42 jets, which will likely cost Japan more than $4 billion. That price tag would make make it Japan’s most expensive fighter purchase ever.

The firm is developing the F-35 with its principal industrial partners Northrop Grumman (NYSE: NOC) and BAE Systems. Lockheed will also license some production to a consortium of Japanese companies.

The Journal said Japan has budgeted around $175.5 million for each of the four jets it will initially purchase in fiscal year 2012. Bloomberg reported today that each of those jets will cost around $114 million.

Lockheed said work will begin April 1, 2012 and the company will begin delivering jets in 2016, according to company vice president for business development Steve O’Bryan.

Lockheed spokesman Joe Stout told GovCon Wire the U.S. government was the principal negotiating body in the agreement, which was made through the foreign military sales program.

Israel chose the F-35 as its next-generation aircraft in October and will receive the aircraft through a foreign military sales program. Britain and the Netherlands have ordered test F-35 aircraft, while Italy and Australia have committed long-lead funding for initial aircraft.

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