The F-X stealth fighter will replace the F-2, a version of the F-16 jointly developed by Mitsubishi and Lockheed Martin 20 years ago.

Japan chose Mitsubishi Heavy Industries for the F-X project

Japan’s Ministry of Defense announced that it had chosen the Mitsubishi Heavy Industries corporation to lead the development of a new stealth fighter, the F-X future fighter jet programme. Tokyo plans to deploy in 2030 to deal with China’s advanced aircraft.

The F-X stealth fighter project worth about $ 40 billion, is seen as a golden opportunity for Mitsubishi. The group is facing many difficulties after withdrawing from the SpaceJet project. The Covid-19 pandemic made it difficult for airlines to order new aircraft.

Mitsubishi is the only Japanese fighter-jet maker and no other company was bidding for the contract. American companies have expressed interest in the Japanese project, including Lockheed Martin, Boeing, and Northrop Grumman. Several British companies including BAE Systems and jet engine manufacturer Rolls-Royce are also interested in Japan’s stealth fighter development program.

F-X project
F-X project

F-X future fighter jet

The F-X stealth fighter will replace the F-2, a version of the F-16 jointly developed by Mitsubishi and Lockheed Martin 20 years ago. The F-X future fighter jet is expected to be designated the F-3 by the time it enters service. This new stealth fighter project is only part of the process of solidifying Japan’s military capabilities to deal with the growing national security threats and challenges, especially from China and Korea.

According to the sketch images of Japan’s F-X future fighter jet, the new fighter will have two engines. According to National Interest, the F-X will have six internal weapon mounts.

There are also reports that Japan will apply existing technologies to the F-X. In 2019, Japan began testing XF-9-1 low-bypass turbofans developed by Ishikawa Heavy Industries. This engine produces dry thrust of 11 to 12 tons and 15 to 16.5 tons with afterburner, and withstand temperatures of 1,800 degrees Celsius. Compared to the F-119 engines of the F-22, which generate a dry thrust of 13 tons and increases to 17.5 tons afterburner thrust, the XF-9 is a half-meter shorter and 30 centimeters slimmer, so it has more room for internal weaponry than the F-22.

Japan is also thought to be researching three-dimensional thrust-vectoring nozzles. This is considered to be the most modern system today capable of helping fighters with extremely good maneuverability in the air with incredible acrobatic movements. If successful, the F-X can rank above the most modern fighters in the world today such as the F-22 and Su-35 in the ability to dodge missiles at close range.

Technologies tested in the X-2 Shinshin that could reappear in the F-X include EMP-resistant fiber-optic fly-by-wire avionics, and ‘self-repairing’ flight systems that detect and automatically compensate for damage to an aircraft’s control-surfaces.

Conclusion

The latest budget request issued by Japan’s Ministry of Defense is seeking $55 billion for fiscal 2021, which begins in April 2021. The amount is an 8 percent increase from the previous year, and makes it the eighth consecutive year the defense budget request to the Ministry of Finance has set a new record high. It includes about $556 million for future fighter research and development, plus $114 million for the integration of its subsystems including radar and mission systems.

Japan is accelerating the development of the F-X program. If successful, the F-X future fighter jet program will help Japan demonstrate its self-reliance ability in developing the world’s most advanced fighters, out of its long dependence on the United States and foreign partners.

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