Japan takes new steps in developing its stealth fighter to integrate with F-35

Japan new stealth fighter aircraft
Mitsubishi X-2 Shinshin experimental aircraft during its maiden flight, April 22, 2016.

Japan has contracted Mitsubishi Heavy Industries to develop the new home-made next-generation stealth fighter that will enter service in the 2030s, Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera recently said.

Japan aims to renew and strengthen the Japan Air Self-Defense Force (JASDF) combat aircraft fleet in view of growing threats from China and North Korea.

The next-generation stealth jet will replace the F-2 fleet that is expected to be retired around 2035. The Ministry of Defense intends to allocate 58.7 billion yen (556 million dollars) in the 2021 budget for the research and development of the modern aircraft.

Mitsubishi will select the other participants in the project to produce the avionics, engines and other components. The nation is also considering developing some parts with foreign contractors such as the United States and Great Britain.

The JASDF fleet consists of around 300 fighter jets which is currently under modernization thanks to the introduction of the F-35 strike fighter.

Japanese purchases of US platforms helped on the one hand respond to President Donald Trump's requests to invest more in American weapons, but on the other hand weakened the Japanese industry.

For its part, the United States is supporting Japan by deploying several fighter jets in the area to conduct joint USAF-JASDF activities and to help intercept Chinese military aircraft that frequently conduct provocative maneuvers in the vicinity of Japanese airspace.

Mitsubishi has already manufactured a next-generation prototype aircraft, the X-2 Shinshin (formerly the ATD-X). The X-2 was developed by the Japanese Ministry of Defense Technical Research and Development Institute (TRDI) to test advanced steatlh technologies. It made its first flight on April 22, 2016. However, it is still unclear whether the upcoming steatlh aircraft will be based on the X-2.

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