It's hard to tell from afar if it's real or just political rhetoric for the home folks, but officials in Japan and Korea are saying some strong things about the F-35 program and Lockheed Martin.
As was posted here last week, Japanese officials expressed concerns about the prospect of higher F-35 prices as a result of the U.S. government cutting back its planned purchases in 2013-2017.
Then on Wednesday the Japanese Defense Minister Naoki Tanaka seemed to take it a step further, saying the nation would consider cancelling plans to buy the F-35 if prices rise too much or the anticipated delivery schedule can't be met, according to Reuters.
"As for the first four planes, I expect an official contract to be concluded by this summer. If it turns out they cannot meet what they have proposed by that time, that would raise concerns about our defense capability," Tanaka told parliament.
"I believe we would need to consider as a potential option matters like cancelling our orders and starting a new selection process if that is the case."
Winning the Japanese commitment in December to purchase 42 F-35s, with first order coming early this year, was a major vote of confidence for the Department of Defense and Lockheed Martin, as it represented the first win in an open competition with other, lower cost -- and older technology -- war planes.
U.S. defense giant Lockheed Martin will face a penalty unless it formally offers an apology for misleading statements over Korea’s plan to purchase fighter jets for 8.29 trillion won ($7.3 billion), multiple sources said Tuesday.
Senior officials at the Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) said that Lockheed Martin has undermined the credibility of the government’s plan to purchase 60 advanced jets in a fair international competition.
The company has been cornered over a report by Dusty Ricketts of the Northwest Florida Daily News that claimed Stephen O’Bryan, vice president of Lockheed Martin’s F-35 program integration, told reporters in early February that Korea had already agreed to purchase F-35 jets.
Many media outlets here churned out articles suggesting that Rickett’s report confirmed the ruling Saenuri Party lawmaker Song Young-sun’s claim that that President Lee Myung-bak promised Barack Obama to purchase F-35s in a summit in Washington on Oct. 13 last year.
Rep. Song told The Korea Times that she still suspects a shady deal might have occurred during the summit, but does not have “hard facts,” nor any witness to back her claim.
Now if politics in Japan and Korea is anything like it is in the U.S., this could all be a lot of smoke and heat for domestic political consumption. Time will tell.