The growing concern of the Chinese neighbour has led Japan to ready its first homegrown fighter jet post World War II. The move by Tokyo is reportedly a bid to counter China’s growing military prowess.
The Advanced Technology Demonstrator-X (ATD – X), a stealth jet fighter, which has been in the making for four years, is expected to take to the skies for the first time in January next year, according to the Nikkei Asian Review.
Japan’s World War II defence manufacturer Mitsubishi Heavy Industries is currently undertaking a final ground test of the prototype fighter also referred to as ‘Shinshin’, which it will deliver to Japan’s Defence Ministry in April next year.
The government is expected to conduct further tests to verify the jet’s capabilities before it decides on production of the aircrafts in 2018.
This is the first time that Japan will break away from joint production with the United States and make fighter jets domestically. Japan was reportedly forced into a joint development agreement by the US in 1987 in exchange of US-made engines for the F-2 fighter jets.
The Shinshin is touted to be the successor to the F-2 fighter jet, and IHI, a defence contractor in the consortium, has produced an engine weighing 640kg with the capacity to deliver up to 5 tons of thrust.
However, the main reason for developing a homegrown jet goes beyond national pride, and is essentially focused on countering Chinese aggression, the report said.
China currently has about 670 fighter jets, while Japan lags behind at 260.
“Given the threat posed by China, Japan will be able to boost its defense capabilities to higher levels by fostering its own technologies, rather than by depending completely on the U.S. for the development of fighter jets,” a senior official at the Defense Ministry’s Technical Research and Development Institute told the newspaper.
According to Japanese Army officials, an advantage of a home-grown fighter jet is that it allows the country to “modify the fighter jet flexibly in accordance with changes in the security environment.”
According to the report, Japan will have to keep aside more than 1 trillion yen ($9.06 billion) from its defence budget of 5 trillion yen to develop a fighter aircraft.