Well, the stealth races are now well underway, with China, Russia (partnering with India) and now Japan moving to field stealth fighters this decade.
Fed up with the U.S. refusal to share the F-22 Raptor despite China’s rapidly advancing military technology, Tokyo now says it will fly Japan’s first stealth fighter prototype by 2014, according to the AP:
The prototype will likely be able to fly in 2014, Lt. Gen. Hideyuki Yoshioka, director of air systems development at Japan’s Ministry of Defense, said in an interview with the Associated Press.
He said Japan has put 39 billion yen ($473 million) into the project since 2009, after it became clear the U.S. was not likely to sell it the F-22 “Raptor”—America’s most advanced fighter jet—because of a congressional export ban.
“We are two years into the project, and we are on schedule,” Gen. Yoshioka said Monday. He stressed that a successful test flight of the prototype, dubbed “Shinshin” (“Spirit”), would not lead to immediate production. The prototype would test advanced technologies, and if successful the government would decide in 2016 how to proceed.
That’s pretty darn ambitious. Still, it could be done. Especially if Japan is given help by the U.S. Just because we can’t share our most advanced jets with the island nation, doesn’t mean we won’t be helping one of our closest allies. Especially when that ally is so close to a China that is making no qualms about its desire to exert lots of influence over the region in the coming decades.
This new program, known as ATD-X, isn’t meant to supplant Japan’s plans to buy F-35 Joint Strike Fighters, F/A-18E/F Super Hornets or Eurofighter Typhoons to replace its aging F-4J Phantoms and F-15s. Instead the program is mean to hone Japan’s ability to develop a 21st Century air superiority fighter on par with the F-22, according to the article.