Meet Japan’s new stealth fighter:
Japan has been building a prototype stealth fighter as part of its advanced technology demonstrator-experimental (ATD-X) program. Some of the first images of the prototype were first published on the web last year.
The ATD-X program, which is being run by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI), has run into myriad different problems. Indeed, Japan had originally intended to conduct the first flight test of the jet in 2014. However, Tokyo was forced to postpone the test due to “engine control” problems. Back in January, Flight Global reported that, because of these problems, the F-3 wouldn’t conduct its first test “until late this year at the earliest.”
As the name suggests, the ATD-X program aims to develop new technologies to enable Japan to build its own fifth- and sixth-generation fighter jets in the coming decades. The program was started in part because the United States imposed an export ban on its first fifth-generation stealth fighter jet—the F-22.
It’s not that well known, due to Japan’s postwar “pacifist” constitution, but the country has a generally first-rate defense industry. Tokyo prefers to build locally when at all possible, even if that means spending more money. Their Type 90 main battle tank is world class, although fewer than 350 have been built, and those at great expense. Japanese warships were impressive before the war, and they’re impressive today, too – especially the new Izumo “helicopter destroyer.” That baby aircraft carrier is one powerful and flexible warship. Mitsubishi also builds the F-2A, which is a more maneuverable upgrade of the F-16, and carries a bigger payload, too.
If Japan really wants to build a homegrown fifth-generation stealth fighter, there’s little doubt they can get the job done.