Japan Studies Indigenous Fighter Program


Japan is studying whether to go it alone on building its next generation of fighter aircraft. Japan’s ministry of defense has been working on the Advanced Technology Demonstrator (ATD-X) for four years and it’s scheduled to fly in January. Nikkei Asian Review says the ministry is asking the government for $384 million to fund a test program designed to see if the ATD-X can form the basis for an indigenous fighter program. The Japanese Air Self-Defense Force now has the F-2, an F-16 derivative built jointly by Mitsubishi and Lockheed Martin, as its frontline fighter but production ended in 2011 and the type is expected to be retired in 15 years.

The ATD-X is designed to be a stealthy twin-engine fighter with a lightweight (likely composite) airframe and modern weapons and electronics. The major development effort will be a clean-sheet engine design that could start next year and take up to five years. The first aircraft will fly with off-the-shelf engines. The government says that even if it doesn’t go ahead with production of the result, the knowledge gained by the effort will help it become a player in arms development programs and help it negotiate future fighter deals with other countries.