Japan’s Mitsubishi Heavy Industries is expected to test fly a locally-made stealth jet by March 2016 with technology developed in-house.
The plane, called Advanced Technology Demonstrator X (ATD-X) will then be handed over to the Japanese Self Defence Force (SDF), which will start conducting its own tests, Bloomberg quoted Hirofumi Doi, a program manager at the Defense Ministry as saying.
The jet measures 14 meters and is equipped with engines from IHI Corp., will cost ¥40 billion ($325 million) to develop, Doi said. The ATD-X could become the basis for a new fighter jet to replace the nation’s F-2, said Takahiro Yoshida, a director in the ministry told Bloomberg.
The ATD-X program will be the forerunner of a military stealth fighter/bomber. A decision on developing the fighter seems to have been influenced by stealth aircraft programs of China and Russian, both of whom have made aggressive manoeuvres by air and naval assets near Japanese territory.
Another reason could be exports. Prime Minister Abe’s focus on selling Japanese-built defence equipment has seen Tokyo bid for selling submarines to Australia and an amphibious aircraft to India.
With the Japanese parliament last year allowing the SDF to flight overseas, Abe wants to have an army equipped with the latest and best equipment.