FORT WORTH, Texas, Dec. 21 (UPI) -- Japan has picked Lockheed Martin's F-35 as its next-generation fighter, winning praise from Norway and Canada, which help fund the aircraft's development.
"I am pleased that Japan has chosen the F-35," said Roger Ingebrigtsen, Norway's state secretary in the Ministry of Defense. "It strengthens the program and it helps to increase demand.
"It is, in itself, an important signal when a large, technology-focused country such as Japan chooses this plane. In addition, it may help to boost demand."
"This is also good news for the Norwegian industrial companies involved in production. I think the Japanese decision will contribute to several other countries choosing the F-35," he said.
The F-35 Lightning II combines advanced stealth characteristics with speed and agility. It features fused sensor information and network-enabled operations and advanced sustainment.
It will come in three variants: conventional takeoff and landing; short takeoff, vertical landing; and (aircraft) carrier.
Funding for the plane's development is provided by the United States, Britain, Australia, Canada, Denmark, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway and Turkey.
Test F-35s have been ordered by Britain and the Netherlands and Lockheed said Australia and Italy have committed funds for purchases.
Israel has indicated its intent to obtain the planes through the U.S. Foreign Military Sales program.
The initial Japanese order will be four aircraft.
"We are honored by the confidence the Japanese government has placed in the F-35 and our industry team to deliver this fifth-generation fighter to the Japan (military)," said Bob Stevens, Lockheed Martin chairman and chief executive officer.
"This announcement begins a new chapter in our long-standing partnership with Japanese industry and builds on the strong security cooperation between the U.S. and Japan."
Canada has chosen the F-35 for its future air fleet over the Eurofighter Typhoon.
Reacting to the announcement from Tokyo, Canadian Associate Minister for National Defense Julian Fantino further validates Canada's decision to fund and purchase the aircraft.
"Our government's priority is delivering our Canadian forces the aircraft they agree gives them the best possible chance of mission success well into the 21st century," he said.
The announcement by Japan "once again demonstrates that the F-35 is the best aircraft available to replace our aging fleets and address future threats to our sovereignty."
More than 65 Canadian companies have won over $370 million in contracts for work connected with the fighter, as have companies in other nations funding the project. For example, hundreds of center fuselages will be produced in Turkey.
Principal subcontractors for the F-35 Lightening II include Northrop Grumman and BAE Systems.