Japan to Fly its Own Stealth Fighter Prototype By 2014

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.


  • Jay

    Sad. We could have sold 100 F22s to Japan, Aus, and Israel. That would have brought the per unit cost down significantly. And saved highly skilled US jobs.

    Meanwhile the F35 keeps getting delayed and more and more expensive…

  • Chris

    Israel would have then sold it to China and everyone would come back in this thread to cry foul.

    But agreed on Australia and Japan, at least an export version so that the molds didn’t have to be destroyed and a per unit savings would be realized.

    • blight

      Israel pulled back the Phalcon sale on objections from the states. No hardware crossed state lines. Despite having a great deal of American hardware, there’s no proof China is in the F-15 or F-16 business, or running around with Merkavas or old M-60 based Sabras (though they could’ve gotten their hands on M-48s from their ex friends Vietnam…)

      Besides, ’tis easier to bribe a single guy in the R&D lab for access to blueprints than to reverse-engineer something in which you still need to break things down into blueprints…

    • Sev

      Who needs Israel to sell China technology when you have Bill Clinton?

  • brian

    Our Foreign Policy has never made any sense. It undermines American Security at every turn. Of course sell the F22 to the Japs, they won’t resell, the tech would end up in their enemies hands. The Aussies, who else in a better position to secure the strategic water passes between the indian ocean and the pacific. All that keeping the tech to ourselves has done, is increase production costs for ourselves and ever reduced buys ending in the canceling of the production line. How has this increased US security on amy level?

    This government has itself to be penny wise and pound foolish. Petty on insignificant issues, dismissive of big picture.

  • SJE

    Israel, unfortunately, has not exactly covered itself in glory in being willing to sell its technology to the Chinese and other powers, provided that such technology does not end up in its immediate neighborhood. Israel’s desire for its own security is pursued without much concern for its impact on the USA.

    The Australians and (to a lesser extent) Japanese, OTOH, have been far more trustworthy.

  • Joe Schmoe

    Israel would say the same by the U.S. selling weapons to its enemies; Jordan, Egypt, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, etc.

  • asdf

    can you provide some proof that the pakis have sent a f-16 for evaluation to china? or was it just for joint exercises or similar?

  • Dfens

    You people clearly don’t understand what is important here. What is important is that F-22 production does not threaten the funding of F-35 development. Anything else is secondary. The defense contractors will protect that free money they get from their development award fee over all else.

  • Oblat

    Basically te Japanese have taken a look at the debacle that is our fighter industry and come to the conclusion that it’s in a terminal dive.

    Lockheed managed to kill export of F-22 so that it dosen’t canabalise sales of the more profitable F-35. That sort of political clout means that our aircraft will be designed to maximise contractor profits for the forseable future.

    Thats not a future Japan wants to participate in.

    • blight

      To be fair, LM could assume that export orders of the F-22 would lead to impetus from export customers to upgrade the avionics. Then there’s an upgrade business, which often nets more money for the contractor than simply cranking out airframes.

  • Blue1

    It must be a dark day in ****…oblat has a point, shooting at the right target, wrong vital spot. Like I posted on the Russian fighter article, hopefully these other countries rapidly move from x-plane, to y-plane to production. They’ll go a long way towards showing what kind of messed up shape our R&D, acquisitions system, and overall military procurement cycle is in. I have however, long since lost faith in having them fixed…

  • Blue1

    Oh yeah, speaking of which, five bucks says they build their fighter on time, and it transforms into a giant robot with laser guns complete with lightsabers and energy shields…

    You laugh, yet you secret want that too…

  • Belesari

    Hopefully Japan will order some f-35’s for its navy. Either the B or C models when all gets worked out.

    If they do build a large land bases stealth fighter like the F-22 hopfully it wont go as bad as the F-16 hybrid they built if i remember correctly they were almost as much per plane as a f-22.

  • Justin H

    From what Ive read, it will be a stealthy gen 4.75 aircraft.

    • blight

      The “gens” are arbitrary. You brought up the metrics for 5th gen last time:

      Supercruise, stealth, powerful radar, powerful electronics

      If Japan simply needs a short range fighter with an optional afterburn dash capability, supercruise is not necessary. Stealth is kind of a given nowadays, as is powerful radar and top-notch avionics.

      Confident japan can do number three and four especially if they are on the list for getting electronics from the United States…they have AEGIS already, next will be AESA.

      So that leaves supercruise and stealth. If they can buy F-22 engines, they’d be set there too. It is unlikely they would get F-22 RCS data, so they would have to do their own stealth designs. However, the radar reflection equations were published and well known back in the ’70s, so the theory is worked out, the feasibility is worked out, so design should be possible. Japan would have to develop low RCS material though.

  • Lance

    Hay I just check out web site about the Japanese Self Defense Force Air Force they are NOT NOT replacing the F-15s in service they are replacing F-4s and RF-4s in JSDFAF service.

    Check out the Japanese section.

  • blight

    The present implementation of UAVs would at best be able to see targets (or be directed to them), lock on and fire missiles. The missiles would then do the heavy lifting.

    However, if you want a UAV that can strafe ground targets, that requires enough bandwidth for a user to see, enough cameras to give good SA, and enough durability to survive get shot to bits.

    If you have excellent radars and just need a flying truck that can drop missiles on tracks far away from home waters, a UAV might fit the bill. However their utility and flexibility remains limited, and they would be utterly crippled by strikes on a ground station. Manned aircraft in the air could still at least finish their mission before being hampered by strikes on ground facilities.

  • FtD

    Japan mostly operates air superiority fighters like F4, F15 as they don’t need strikers as they are by name a self defense force. Therefore F35 does not suit their requirements as the type cannot establish air superiority in supersonic combat environment. So it’s understandable for their force to develop their own air dominance fighter when US doesn’t care what their allies need. The bottom line is F35 isn’t one size fits all kind of fighter as LM wants everyone to belief

  • Stratege

    I am very sceptical.
    How many years of experience in development and construction of modern military aircraft does Japan have? What with their missile technology, knowledge in aerodynamics, radar techonolgy, jet engines etc.. ???

    In comparison with US, Russia or even China… How they can produce top class combat fighter jet?

  • Mike

    The Japanese will do what the Chinese and Russians did by feeding pictures and diagrams as well as known facts involving the F-22 Raptor into a supercomputer; then using aeronautical engineering and some guesses, they can essentially reverse engineer a copy of an aircraft which might be very similar to the F-22.

    The Japanese can merge technologies from experience with F1 race cars and their F-2 fighter jet program for their stealth fighter program by making extensive usage of composite materials on the outside over an aluminum alloy skeletal frame.

    Once the prototype is flying, the Japanese can do some tweaking to enhance the stealthiness of the aircraft.

    • blight

      That would at best give them an approximate description of the outer shell of the F-22. Measuring an objects three dimensional dimensions from 2D photos without a precise reference marker is a dark art, and even slight error will produce RCS.

      Having a shell is nice, but it won’t tell you anything about internal electronics and internal arrangement of equipment. Major design work would still be required even if the aircrafts dimensions were precisely known.

  • John B

    Japan spent only 500M$ so and their prototype is ready to take off. How much did the Dod spend for the JSF and ATF to do that ?

    • Joe Schmoe

      I think $500m was spent on agreeing where to take off and shipping it there.


    • Curt

      You should re-read the post. They have already spent $487million (give or take) since 2009 but it won’t fly until 2014. They will probably spend a little more in the next couple of years to actually build it, test it, and fly it don’t you think?

  • FtD

    i don’t think using current US model of fighter jet building should be the norm as US ‘used’ to be quite efficient in introducing new jets to the force… normally it’d take 4 years from first flight to IOC but F22 stretched that to 8 years & now F35 looking @ 10+ years. So i think a development cycle of 4-6 years is quite ok, so i’m looking forward to all those new jets from Russia/India, China & now Japan as well….. & let’s hope Europe will come to their senses & produce their own stealth fighter.

  • Proud Aussie

    As a proud Australian Ally of the US I hope that the F35 gets going on track and time as the public here are getting sick of the cost blow outs etc.

    We would happily have bought the F22 which was our first choice. Seems strange that the US wouldn’t share the technology with us. Considering that we have fought every war with the US since the Second World War and have installations such as Pine Gap pver here and are considering allowing more US troops on our soil.

    We are taking deliver of two large Helicopter Landing Ships in 2014 which have the capablility of Carrier Borne Fighters, so hopefully we will get some carrier variants of the F35. This would be a capability we haven’t had snce 1982 when we retired our last carrier.

    Lastly I apologise for our poor excuse for a Prime Minister (Julia GILLARD) currently in your country.

    • SJE

      The Aussies have fought on the same side as the US in every major war since Federation in 1901. WW1, WW2, Cold War, Korea, Vietnam, Gulf War I and II, Afghanistan. Also involved in fighting communist insurgencies in SE Asia, fightin in Somalia, various peace keeping forces etc. Not bad for a nation that only just got to 20 million people.

  • Sanem

    Japan could easily build a UAV air superiority force:

    a) the Predator alternative. long endurance, with 2 AMRAAMs or Meteors, these would patrol a specific area. they would have very limited capabilities themselves, little more than a missile delivery system, using external targetting data, for example from AWACS. cost would be only a few million $ per aircraft, and a minimal operating and training cost

    b) the F-16 UCAV alternative: basically an unmanned F-16, it would exchange endurance for speed and mobility, to get into position quickly to fire it’s missiles before disengaging. cost could be as low as $20 million per unit

    c) the stealth UCAV alternative: something like an X-47b, Phantom Ray or Neuron, these would combine endurance with speed and superb stealth. they would work closely with the other two type, sort of like a sniper, using them as bait and fodder screen so they can outflank the enemy forces, engaging them from angles where enemy stealth is not as high

    d) manned fighters: these would be combined with the UAVs, using them as on-site operators, staying at long range themselves, brining more missiles to the fight and guiding the UAVs tactically with hard to jam, no delay, short ranged communications. a second pilot in the fighter would be mandatory, making the F-22 and F-35 very unatractive in this role

  • txkboy

    Only because Japan doesn’t have the spy network to steal our technology like the Chinese do…lol.

  • yellow devil

    Well really it’s no different than a state-of-the-art million dollar Abrams tank being destroyed by an Iranian built explosively formed penetrator IED that only costs a few hundred dollars to make. Does that mean we shouldn’t have Abram tanks anymore?

  • Dimitar

    that would definitely propel the Eurofighter to the top or pretty much the top, seeing that it’s a multi-role fighter and is designed with maneuverability as a top priority

  • Deane Gilmour

    What? I thought that Japan was religated to defense ONLY by virtue of the WWII treaty. A stealth fighter is NOT a defensive weapon system. It is an offensive system pure and simple.

  • asdf

    who is helping japan with this project (or a similar one)? LM, EADS, Boeing?
    i know that there was a news that they were seeking assistance from a foreign (more experienced) manufacturer, but i don’t know who was picked out.
    LM? although i wonder how come they didn’t just offer the f35.

    • asdf

      (if not on this program, then the f-x or whatever it is)

  • “Kansas” Angell

    Ah, Heck, the Chineese just sit and wait for the US to send them our Night Vision (which we were clearly #1 at so that they can have the darned Circuit cars assemblies built cheaper! You didn’t see much exposure on that because it was an embarassment to the USA and as far as I know only an executive lost his job over the ordeal.

  • “Kansas” Angell

    Personally I believe that our satelite technology needs to be better secured and we need more capability in space at this point against other countries. Our latest and greatest tests of LASERs from Ground Undersea, surface and Air has been nothing short of a giant success…No comments on this though unlwss you read thin lines…
    I think the LARGEST problem is that our Congress and Senate have no real INPUT from our Military just papers and Reports. I say get teh people from Washington , D.C. out of the offices adn from behind desks and take them out to the Military sites and let them see first hand SpySatelite Photos, real equipment not just ours but everythign we have of everybody elses–THEN let them sit down and plan our future as a nation! May God Bless America because IF we don’t keep Australia nd Japan Friends we may need all the power from Heaven on our Earth (Revelations)

  • “Kansas” Angell

    IF ONLY Australia would allow me to live there for the rest of my life (I’m 58), I’d go and die there as far as I am concerned. They are about the best people on this earth I have ever met. At 39 I retired from the US Navy with my 20 years but that 39 years included part of my fathers 23 years in the Navy traveling. I can tell you that with the exception of Europe, the Friendliest people are in Australia, and that includes 48 (not counting N&S Dakota as states I have lived in. Yes I like Rural Kansas, Kentucky, and a few places…but Nothing overall compares.
    We OWE our Loyal Allies more than just empty promises of support and aircraft for sale.

  • skynet

    hey did u know that japan let aegis aaw tech go to china??

    • blight

      “U.S. intelligence officials say China stole the technology for the Aegis battle management system by setting up a front company in the United States that became a subcontractor for the Aegis system manufacturer.” http://www.worldtribune.com/worldtribune/05/front

    • FtD

      maybe he’s the one carried the blueprints from tokyo to beijing

      • blight

        It’s unlikely Japan had actual blueprints. If you were working as a subcontractor, on the other hand…

  • FtD

    agree, US + allies need more F22 for TACAIR in the regional arms race. To sit back with only 187 planes leave westpac nations (Aust, Taiwan, Japan, S Korea & even Singapore) who rely on US equipment very vulnerable when eventually Russia/China produce their own 5th gen fighters.

  • golani51

    True on the UCAVs but the ‘real’; pilots dont want to lose their grip on the chick- pulling power. More weapons, no loss of pilots, higher g- force manouvers, …..what more do you want.

    Israel is not the enemy here. After all, doesn’t the US sell to Egypt (including illegally selling US APCs containing what was then state-of-the-art NVGs. They certainly helped Aphganistan and Al Queida.

  • chuteok

    Saddened that our chief ally the USA would not trust Australia with the F-22 . It tries to guard the most dangerous {in terms of strategic} waters in the World.The F-35 , what a load of crap…on time on budegt { have shown what US Mil Industry has ben like for some time now…down the toilet plus they have only grudginly given Codes}..what a crock of crap. Give us some more Super Hornets , we will make do as always downunder.

  • mike

    Japan also gave our Computer Numerical Control technology to China a while back,
    which allows for better precision machining (Quieter Sub Propellers etc.).

  • shawn1999

    Quite ripping on Israel. Everyone knows that if the Chinese want data, all they have to do is bribe one of the scientists (who will get at most 15 years, if I recall correctly), or just cyber-walk into the Senate’s computer’s and take what they want from there.