Made in Japan stealth fighter set for test flight

Made in Japan stealth fighter set for test flight
PHOTO: AFP

A prototype of a domestically developed fighter jet with stealth capability will be given its first test flight in mid-February. The government aims for the test to pave the way for the domestic production of such stealth fighters.

Data from the experiment and other results will be utilized to produce a model of fighter jet that can succeed the F-2, built by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Ltd. (MHI), which constitutes the majority of fighters currently in service in the nation.

The government also aims to establish Japan's own technologies in the field and maintain the foundations of the nation's defence industry.

The test flight will be conducted using an aircraft called the "advanced technology demonstrator," which has been researched and developed since 2009 by the Defence Ministry in collaboration with private companies, including MHI and IHI Corp.

The test flight will be conducted at Nagoya Airport in Toyoyama, Aichi Prefecture, which is run by the Aichi prefectural government.

The experimental plane is 14 meters long and nine meters wide. To improve the mobility of the fuselage, light carbon fiber is used. Costs related to the development, including funds allocated in the fiscal 2016 national budget, are expected to be about ¥41.5 billion.

The project is currently in the final phase of development, which is scheduled to be completed in March 2016. The government had initially planned to conduct the experimental flight by the end of fiscal 2014, but the schedule was postponed because faults were found in the engine control system and other areas.

"The problems have been resolved by finding the causes and making improvements," a Defence Ministry official said.

An increasing number of foreign-made fighter jets and other defence equipment assets have recently been introduced to Japan. Companies in the Japanese defence industry have faced tough competition.

The ministry anticipates that if domestically made fighters succeed the current models, this will bring economic benefits valued at about ¥8 trillion and create about 240,000 jobs.

If Japan's own stealth technologies can be established, Japanese companies will be able to participate in the initial stages of development and have an advantage in sharing technologies and information with partner countries, even if future fighters are developed jointly with the United States or other countries.

"Japan will be able to avoid a situation in which it is forced to buy fighter jets from other countries at exorbitant prices," a government source said.

It is therefore seen as important that domestic companies continue to develop their own technologies.

The government is scheduled to purchase 42 F-35 fighters - a state-of-the-art model with stealth capability developed jointly by nine countries including the United States and Britain - and introduce them into service from fiscal 2016.

However, in the future, the government also intends to improve its air defence system by introducing a model that will be the successor to the F-2.

Based on the outcomes of the test flight, the government will decide by the end of fiscal 2018 whether the successor fighter model will be domestically made or jointly developed with other countries such as the United States.

Stealth capability

Technology that makes military aircraft difficult to detect by radar by using a body shape that does not readily reflect radio waves and paint that absorbs radio waves. Stealth aircraft have the tactical advantage of being able to approach and attack enemies without being noticed. China and Russia have also been developing their own stealth fighter jets.Speech

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