Japan to test homegrown fighter planes

DPA Tokyo | Updated on August 21, 2014

Japan will start test flights next year to decide whether the country would be able to build a fighter jet without relying on Western contractors, a report said Thursday.

The Defence Ministry’s research and development institute began work on the Advanced Technology Demonstrator—X (ATD—X) four years ago to gauge the feasibility of producing a fighter, the Nikkei business daily reported.

The ATD—X is scheduled for its first flight with stand-in engines in January.

Prototyping of the actual engines — a joint effort by IHI Corp, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd and other defence contractors — is to start as early as the next financial year and take about five years, the Nikkei said.

Initial costs are estimated at 500 billion to 800 billion yen (4.8 billion to 7.7 billion dollars), but test flights and the development of ancillary equipment will likely add significantly to the total, the report said.

The Defence Ministry reportedly plans to seek around 40 billion yen in funding for the effort for the next financial year starting April 2015.

Production of F—2 fighter jets jointly by Japan and the United States ended in fiscal 2011. The last of the jets are expected to be retired around fiscal 2028, the daily said.

Tokyo will decide by fiscal 2018 whether to proceed with the development of a Japanese fighter jet, according to its latest medium—term defence programme, the report said.

The Defence Ministry believes that having its own fighter technology would help Japan buy planes from other countries and join multinational arms projects even if it ultimately passes on the results of its own development.

Published on August 21, 2014

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