Japan has chosen the US-made F-35 stealth jet as its next-generation mainstay fighter in a multi-billion dollar deal.
The defense ministry picked the jet made by Lockheed Martin to replace its ageing fleet of F-4 jets over two rivals, the Boeing-made F/A-18 Super Hornet and the Eurofighter Typhoon, the Yomiuri Shimbun said.
Japan’s biggest daily said the defense ministry had “agreed in principle” to select the F-35, with a formal announcement expected Friday at the Security Council of Japan, chaired by Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda.
Kyodo News cited unnamed government sources as saying the ministry had decided to buy 40 F-35 fighters, while the Nikkei business daily said only that the jet remained a “prime candidate”.
Earlier reports said Japan could buy as many as 50 new jets, equipped with stealth technology, with a price tag of more than $6 billion.
The F-35, the most expensive weapons programme in Pentagon history, has been plagued by cost overruns and technical delays.
The jet, co-developed with British defense giant BAE Systems, is the most expensive among the three candidates, with a price tag estimated at $113 million per aircraft.
Japan initially aimed to acquire the F-22 stealth fighter to renew its fleet, but US law prohibits exports of the jet with the United States having said it would halt production of the model.