Japan Unveils New 5th Generation Stealth Fighter Jet
This Thursday, Japan’s new Acquisition, Technology and Logistics Agency revealed the Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Advanced Technology Demonstrator – Experimental (ATD-X) fifth-generation fighter technology demonstrator, now dubbed X-2 and unofficially named ‘ShinShin,’ to the media at a heavily guarded hangar at a regional airport near the city of Komaki, in Aichi Prefecture. It has previously been showcased once already in May 2014.
The X-2 is the country’s first domestically produced full-scale test model—a technology demonstrator—of a new indigenous stealth fighter jet design, which has been under development at a Mitsubishi Heavy Industries plant in Toyoyama since 2009, with total program costs estimated at 39.4 billion yen (around $331 million).
The aircraft—an “advanced technology demonstration unit,” according to the Defense Technical Research and Development Institute –unveiled to the press will not be armed and is slated to be retired in three years, after having undergone extensive tests of advanced fifth-generation fighter technologies, for which Japan’s Defense Ministry has allocated 2.3 billion yen ($19.3 million) in the next fiscal year alone.
It will be a testbed platform for multiple technologies including next generation electronically scanned array radar systems, multi-dimensional 3D thrust vectoring concepts, and fine-tune the aircraft’s stealth capabilities. (The X-2 features a special carbon-fiber composite material that absorbs radar waves.)
The X-2 program’s goal is to eventually produce Japan’s first indigenously-designed fifth-generation air superiority fighter, designated F-3, with serial production slated to begin in 2027, although various delays in the development of the X-2 prototype including issues with the engine control software –scheduled to be fully developed by 2018– make a later date more likely.
The X-2 with a length of 14.2 meters and a wingspan of 9.1meters is scheduled to make its maiden flight in February 2016. I explained in my earlier piece:
Prior to its first test-flight, the aircraft will undergo extensive taxiing and ground trials at the Mitsubishi Heavy Industries testing center located in Aichi Prefecture on Japan’s main island of Honshu. From there the fighter prototype is expected to fly to Gifu Air Field, an airbase of the Japan Air Self-Defense Force, situated in the neighboring prefecture of Gifu sometime in February.
Lockheed-Martin is purported involved in the development of the X-2 prototype. The American aircraft maker was prohibited from selling its F-22 Raptor stealth air superiority fighter to Japan in the 2000s, causing Tokyo’s defense industry to kick-start development of the X-2.
The aircraft unveiled this Thursday is the only X-2 prototype constructed so far.
Article first published in The Diplomat