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Japan Unlikely to Procure Desired US Fighter Jet

Japan's hopes of acquiring the jet touted as the world's most advanced fighter are being dashed. The commander of U.S. Forces Japan, in an unusually blunt remark, says even if American senators had not voted to halt further production of the F-22, there was little chance the aircraft would have been sold to its ally.

The top American military commander in Japan rebuffed Tokyo's hopes of acquiring a new state-of-the-art fighter, just days after the U.S. Senate cut future funding for production of the combat jet.

Lieutenant General Edward Rice on Thursday said the F-22 Raptor was never intended to be sold to other countries, despite interest expressed by such allies as Japan, Australia and Israel.

"Given that the F-22 is not available to anybody in the world as an export aircraft, what is the best aircraft for Japan to purchase to secure their defensive needs of the available aircraft? I certainly am not in a position or would not take a position to try to suggest to the Japanese what aircraft they should buy," Rice said.

The Japanese and other allies may have to look at the smaller, slower and cheaper F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, which has some of the advanced technology developed for the Raptor.

President Obama has said it would be a waste of money to build more F-22's, a stance many U.S. lawmakers supported. His administration wants to shift more of the defense budget away from conventional warfare projects that have huge costs.

But influential proponents of the F-22 in the U.S. Congress say that even if the Air Force does not want more of the twin-engine jets, they should be built for sale to allies. Supporters say the high-altitude supersonic fighter is ideal to counter any future threat from China's combat jets.

Japan's Air Self Defense Force primarily relies on F-4 and F-15 fighter jets. Defense officials here say their top preference to replace the aging F-4's remains the Raptor despite the funding cut by U.S. senators.