Photo/Illutration An F-35A stealth fighter jet takes off during a drill from the Air Self-Defense Force’s Misawa air base in January 2019. (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

The government plans to select Lockheed Martin Corp. to provide technical support for Japan’s bid to develop its own next-generation successor to the Self-Defense Force’s F-2 fighter jet, sources said.

The U.S. company, based in Bethesda, Maryland, manufactures the F-35, the state-of-the-art stealth fighter that Japan has decided to introduce to the Air SDF.

The government valued Lockheed Martin's track record for building advanced fighter jets, according to the sources.

The choice comes after the government considered Lockheed Martin, Boeing Co. and British BAE Systems plc to partner with Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd., which is leading the project to develop a fighter jet to replace the aging F-2.

The F-2 aircraft are due to begin being retired from service around 2035.

The government plans to introduce about 90 new fighter jets to replace them.

The aircraft will be equipped with stealth technology to avoid enemy radar detection, as well as defend against electromagnetic wave attacks, to counter Russia and China, which are deploying fighters among the world’s most advanced.

The government plans to book 70 billion yen ($673 million) in the budget request for fiscal 2021.

The government signed on with Mitsubishi Heavy in October to oversee the project.

IHI Corp. and Subaru Corp. are also expected to participate in building the engines and airframes, respectively, as subcontractors, according to the sources.

The midterm defense buildup program, set in 2018, states that Japan will begin early development of its fighter jet successor while seeking international cooperation.

Japan wants to lead the development, rather than a foreign aircraft manufacturer, to build a strong foundation for developing fighter jets on its own.