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Japanese Stealth Fighter Mitsubishi ATD-X

TOKYO — Japan will develop its own stealth fighter jets to compete
against the rapidly advancing Chinese air force and other threats to its
air defenses, officials said.

Japan’s air force has been
searching for replacements for its aging fleet of F-4s and F-15s. But
its hopes to purchase F-22s from Washington have been hindered by a U.S.
Congress export ban and its reluctance to share sensitive military
technology with foreign governments.

The key part of the six-year
project, to be launched officially next April, involves developing an
XF5-1 engine that would allow a fighter jet to be both highly
maneuverable and cruise at supersonic speeds, according to the Japanese
defense ministry.

“We need fighters that are fitted with highly
advanced technology, considering what’s been developed in other
countries,” the ministry said in a recent statement. “It is a crucial
project in developing fighters that will play a key role in our future
fleet and build our space defense.”

Defense officials hope to have
a test flight of the prototype, unofficially nicknamed “Shinshin,” or
Spirit, by the end of March 2014. The entire project is expected to cost
$419.8 million.

The ministry has requested a $141.4 million
budget for the initial year, pending government approval, a spokesman
said Thursday, on condition he not be named.

Maneuverability and
supersonic speeds mean that a jet can go faster, longer, and a
radar-evading stealth design makes it harder to detect.

homegrown stealth capabilities, rather than relying on foreign imports
for key military technology, would also serve as a deterrent and boost
national security “in the face of stealth development in China and
Russia,” the spokesman said.

Russia is aiming to create a
fifth-generation attack fighter by around 2015 as part of its
modernization and restructuring of its military.

China has already
unveiled its J-10 fighter, which is believed to be one of the most
advanced used by any air force in the world today. Beijing is believed
to be developing upgraded models, the J-12 and J-14, with stealth

Stealth development is part of Japan’s efforts in recent years to build up its air defenses.