On 22 April, Japan’s X-2 prototype stealth fighter carried out its maiden flight. Under development by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI), since 2009, at the request of the Japanese Ministry of Defense, the X-2 (formerly ATD-X) is at present a small-scale demonstrator. It will test different technologies (propulsion, stealth and avionics) which could be embedded within fifteen years on future Japanese fighters. To date, the development costs of the programme stand at around 320 million euros.
During the flight, from Nagoya airport and Japan Air Force Gifu Air Base (both in central Japan), the test pilot was able to confirm the fighter’s basic manoeuvrability. Nicknamed Shinshin (spirit of the heart), the X-2 demonstrates Japan’s will to develop next-generation combat aircraft, as one way of replacing its aging fleet of Boeing F-15 Strike Eagle’s; thereby contributing to Japan’s national security.
Tokyo should decide the follow-up to this programme within the next two years. A potential entry into service is not expected before 2030.