F-35 Fighter Aircraft
A file photograph of a US Air Force F-35A Lightning II jet.US Air Force via Reuters

European missile maker MBDA and Japan's Mitsubishi Electric are looking to jointly develop a medium-range air-to-air missile for American aerospace giant Lockheed Martin's F-35 stealth combat jet.

Mitsubishi Electric will begin a feasibility study and the value of the missile-development deal is not known, Reuters reported.

A steering committee of British and Japanese officials will meet at the Farnborough Air Show, which begins on 14 July, to manage the collaboration between MBDA and Mitsubishi, and direct future projects.

Pursued by the news agency, MBDA did not respond to a request for comment while a spokeswoman for Mitsubishi Electric refused to take questions.

MBDA is a pan-European firm carved out of the missile divisions of European defence contractors BAE Systems, Airbus and Finmeccanica.

Mitsubishi Electric, which also manufactures refrigerators and vacuum cleaners, supplies air-to-air missiles to Japan's Self Defence Forces, alongside space satellites to the Japanese government.

Mitsubishi's moves follow the Japanese government's attempts to trim procurement costs for Japan's military, by granting arms suppliers permission to sell equipment abroad.

Exports will enable Japanese arms manufacturers to spread their costs over a bigger production base and improve cost-efficiency.

F-35s Grounded

News of the proposed missile deal surfaced a day after the US military grounded its entire fleet of F-35 fighter jets owing to engine concerns, after one plane caught fire on the runway at a Florida airbase.

Global orders for the F-35 are expected to surpass 3,000 with US allies Italy, Turkey, Canada and Australia planning purchases. Japan has so far ordered 42 F-35 jets, which it wants to deploy in 2017.

UK-Japan Pact

The planned MBDA-Mitsubishi missile deal will be the first major project stemming from a pact signed by the UK and Japan in July 2013 -- which created a legal framework for the two countries to pursue joint research and development on defence gear.

A second accord mandated both nations to safeguard classified information exchanged in the work.