Pentagon's top contractor eyes Japanese parts

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WASHINGTON, Oct 10 (Reuters) Lockheed Martin Corp, the Pentagon's No. 1 supplier, would be interested in buying parts from Japan if permitted under the country's pacifist constitution, a company executive told Reuters.

''If the Japanese can produce competitively priced source items for us, we would be interested in entering into those kinds of relationships,'' said Dennis Cavin, a Lockheed vice president for international air and missile defense strategic initiatives.

Japan is alone among nations in barring nearly all arms exports, a practice rooted in the constitution imposed by the United States after World War Two.

Members of Japan's Keidanren business lobby have pressed for changes so local contractors can bid for work on such programs as Lockheed's F-35 fighter, co-financed by the United States and eight other countries.

Cavin, a retired US Army lieutenant general, oversees a Lockheed Martin program that licenses Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd to produce parts for Patriot PAC-3 missiles for use in Japan's own defense.

He said a number of Japanese companies had shown interest in building components that could also go into missiles built in the United States, if the constitution were reinterpreted to allow this or if it were amended.

Under its license, Mitsubishi Heavy is to start producing components for Japan's Patriot Advanced Capability-3 missiles at a new, ''state-of-the-art'' facility in Taketoyo, south of Nagoya, in 2009, Cavin said.

''There's no question in my mind that their technology ... is equivalent to ours or else we would not have entered this direct commercial sale (pact) with them,'' Cavin said.

He made his comments in an interview during an annual conference of the Association of the US Army, a supporters' group.

Lockheed builds F-16 and F-22 fighter jets, as well as Aegis naval warfare systems and the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense, or THAAD, weapon system.

Long the industry leader, it won 26.6 billion dollars in Pentagon prime contracts in fiscal 2006, the last year for which data is available.

REUTERS SZ RAI0845

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