Japan has revealed the concept of its Mitsubishi F-X fighter jet project rivaling the US-made F-22 in size and performance.
It is seeking to partner the UK’s Tempest program besides the European FCAS to develop and share crucial technologies, Japanese officials have disclosed pieces of information about the new project in various media reports.
The move represents an initiative, just like the European efforts to move away from American dominance over defence products. Japan has earmarked $256.5 million in fiscal year 2020 for “F-X related research projects” and “conceptual design in Japan-led development.”
“We will develop the F-X so that we can deliver the first production type [of the new aircraft] before the F-2 retirement starts,” a Japanese Ministry of Defense spokesperson told Jane’s on January 30. “We will continue to discuss with potential partners, then we would like to determine a preliminary framework regarding development partners by December this year when we will finalise the draft cabinet budget for fiscal year (FY) 2021.”
“The design mirrors some characteristics of concept drawings of the FCAS released by Dassault, though the plane has four tail surfaces similar to the YF-23 Black Widow that Northrop and McDonnell Douglas produced to compete with Lockheed’s YF-22, which the Air Force eventually adopted over the Black Widow,” Bradley Perrett of Aviation Week noted.
Mitsubishi is also trying to get Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Boeing and BAE Systems to get involved in their ambitious multibillion dollar project. The Japanese company has spent years developing indigenous X-2 Shinshin jet that took off after the US denied F-22 export two decades ago. The Japanese fighter will use home-grown stealth technology, thrust vectoring system, powerful new engines, radars and composite materials. It’s engine is said to be Japan’s equivalent of the Pratt & Whitney F119 turbofan engine that powers the F-22. Although smaller in size when compared to the P&W engine, this engine will provide more room in the fuselage for weapons storage. The X-2 test bed made its first flight in 2016.
The new planned fighter could also draw other technologies tested in the X-2 such as electromagnetic pulse-resistance, fiber-optic fly-by-wire avionics as well as “self-repairing” flight systems capable of compensating for damage in mid-flight, according to some reports.