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Fighter plane takes maiden flight FS-X jointly developed between U.S., Japan


The FS-X, the controversial first fighter plane jointly developed between the United States and Japan with a hefty amount of input from Bethesda-based Lockheed Martin Corp., took its maiden flight over the weekend.

The 39-minute test flight, from an airport in Nagoya, Japan, came years after Japan announced that it wanted to develop a fighter plane on its own. Since the end of World War II, Japan has bought all of its military planes from the United States or built them under licensing agreements with U.S. companies.

Japan's decision was not well received in Washington, where Congress was concerned about the huge trade deficit between the two countries. Congress also was concerned about a sell-off of U.S. aerospace technology. Japan bowed to U.S. pressure and agreed to co-develop the plane in 1989.

Under terms of a government-to-government agreement, 40 percent of the work will be done in the United States. Lockheed Martin is in line for a big slice of business.

Vernon A. Lee, vice president for the FS-X program at Lockheed Martin, said the planned production of 140 FS-X planes represents about $2 billion in future business for the company.

Its involvement in developing the plane, which is patterned after the company's successful F-16 fighter, represented about $900 million in business for the Lockheed Martin Tactical Aircraft Systems in Fort Worth, Texas.

Lockheed Martin will supply an assortment of components, including wing parts, fuselage sections, electronic equipment and software. General Electric Co. is to supply the engines.

The company estimates that 700 employees at the Fort Worth plant will work on the Japanese fighter. Production is expected to begin next year and last into the early part of the next century.

Each of the more than 3,600 F-16 fighters produced to date were equipped with radar made at the Westinghouse Electric Corp. plant in Linthicum. But the radar for the FS-X is supplied by a Japanese company, said Joseph Stout, a Lockheed Martin spokesman.

Mr. Lee said each FS-X, including development costs, will cost $80 million to $120 million, depending on the equipment. He said a comparable, military-ready F-16 would cost $25 million to $30 million.

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