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STEALTH TECHNOLOGY

Japan backs homegrown stealth jet in aerospace industry revival

by

Staff Writer

Japan is set to become the fourth country to test-fly its own stealth jet — a move that is likely to increase its military presence in the region.

Air supremacy is crucial for today’s combat and for national defense. Yet after Japan was defeated in World War II, its once superior aerospace industry, famous for the Zero fighter, has lagged behind the United States and other nations in development.

We look at what development of indigenous stealth jets, as well as Japan’s homegrown fighters, means for Japan and the region.

How does stealth technology work?

Stealth technology is a key feature of state-of-the-art fighter aircraft. It makes the aircraft almost invisible on radar. Every aircraft has a so-called radar cross-section of detectability, and the aerospace industry has been working to minimize this profile.

To do this, aircraft are coated with radar-absorbing materials or designed to deflect radar, making them hard to detect. Stealth aircraft thus sport flat surfaces and sharp edges, instead of being rounded, a shape that paints an easier radar profile.

Fighter aircraft are ever-evolving, with each generation incorporating the latest technology. The latest, or fifth-generation, fighter called the F-35 Lightning II has advanced stealth capabilities, integrated avionics, sensor fusion and superior logistics support.

Lockheed Martin, the maker of the Lightning II, said, “advanced materials and other features make the F-35 virtually undetectable to enemy radar.”

An F-35 radar blip is said to be about the size of a small bird.

What other countries have stealth aircraft?

The U.S. has been the leader in stealth jets, with an inventory that includes the Lockheed F-117 Nighthawk, the Northrop Grumman B-2 Spirit, the Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor and the F-35.

Russia together with India have been developing the PAK-FA or T-50 directly to compete with the F-22 Raptor. And China’s Chengdu J-10B, which has some stealth capabilities, is also in service.

The U.S. is the only country that has used stealth jets in combat.

What kind of stealth jet is Japan developing?

Japan started developing the Advanced Technology Demonstrator, a stealth jet called X-2, in 2009.

It has so far invested some ¥40 billion in its development, according to the Defense Ministry. The X-2 fuselage is developed by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, while its engines, which have after-burner capability to provide extra thrust to launch from an aircraft carrier, are developed by IHI Corp.

Japan has been conducting test runs of the 14-meter-long demonstrator since earlier this year and it is slated to take its maiden flight later this month or after. After test flights, the aircraft will be delivered to the Defense Ministry, which will gauge its capabilities at the Air Self-Defense Force’s Gifu Air Field.

What is behind Japan’s recent move to develop fighters?

Developing stealth jets is considered crucial, but producing state-of-the art fighters is also key to maintaining air superiority, and keeping the aerospace industry viable.

Japan has wanted to develop a sophisticated indigenous fighter for years. Despite its technological advancement, the country has lagged behind the United States, Russia and European nations in the aerospace-aeronautics sector since the end of World War II.

The first fighter jet Japan developed, the F-1, had limited air-to-air combat capability due to its lack of sufficient weaponry.

Japan’s most recent homegrown fighter, the F-2, lacks stealth capability.

Its design, however, was based on the U.S. General Dynamics F-16 Fighting Falcon. The U.S. had pressured Japan not to develop its own fighter jets.

Mitsubishi Heavy has been building U.S.-designed fighter jets under license, but Japan cannot access critical information via the assembly process because it is kept secret.

But now Japan has embarked on development of a homegrown fighter to replace the F-2, which it plans to retire around 2030. The country will need to decide whether to develop its own fighters, buy those sold by other countries, or jointly develop them by 2018.

Richard Bitzinger, senior fellow and coordinator of the Military Transformations Program at the Institute of Defense and Strategic Studies at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, said Japan’s stealth jet quest was a significant step forward from the F-2.

“This is actually kind of a leap for them in a way, coming out of a relative failure of the F-2 program,” said Bitzinger. “It shows that Japan still wants to be a major player in the global aerospace community.”

How did Japan’s lifting of its arms export ban change the situation?

The F-35 resulted in a bitter experience for Japan, which bought the aircraft to technically replace the McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II fleet.

Even though Mitsubishi Heavy can assemble the aircraft, the country cannot participate in the joint development project because in the initial stage the arms export ban was still in place.

The 2014 easing of the ban allows Japan to develop arms with allies and give its defense industry the latest technology. It also enables the industry to potentially sell arms to countries other than those involved in conflicts with Japan or subject to U.N. embargoes, which could help bring down development costs.

Experts say that the chances are slim that Japan would go ahead with development on its own, given the costs. But having the technology makes it easier to participate in the joint project.

“The question is if Japan can develop an engine with much power,” said Yoshitomo Aoki, a journalist who specializes in the aerospace defense industry. “If Japan can come up with . . . notable technology in anything, it would be a ‘souvenir’ that would open the door for the joint development program.”

Will this change the military balance in the region?

Possibly. Experts say that Japan’s potential stealth jet could unnerve China, which is flexing its military muscle in both the East and South China seas.

Beijing is getting more wary that Japan is indirectly trying to keep China in check in the South China Sea by supplying technological support to neighboring nations.

China is now developing the fifth-generation fighter jet Chengdu J-20, which could go into service in five years. Even though experts are skeptical of the quality and capability of Chinese military assets, they say it’s important for Japan to have indigenous fighter jets with stealth capability and powerful engines amid China’s increasing efforts to develop technology.

“If China can develop really advanced stealth jets, China will have the air supremacy,” said Tetsuo Kotani, a senior fellow at the Japan Institute of International Affairs (JIIA). “The F-35 can deal with the J-20, but we have to look beyond the J-20. It is about the competition for air supremacy.”

  • TV Monitor

    The reporter doesn’t understand that bankrupt Japan doesn’t have $30 billion needed to develop and build 100 F-3s, so there is in fact no follow-up project to the ATD-X. I follow the Japanese weapons development programs very closely and there is absolutely nothing happening with regards to the F-3.

    Japan is instead expected to order 100 more F-35s in 2019.

    • Tachomanx

      I expected to find you around here, qute predictable although it’s kind of weird how you seem to scan trhough news to find chances to snipe away your garbage. Do you even get out? Remember what the Sun was?

      Anyway, the program has so far treded along, with the expected delays such programs face elsewhere on the world, and shows no signs of not yielding results.

      As for the resources, they always seem to be available so don’t worry so much and instead how about finding a better argument beyond budget? You are starting to repeat yourself over your pathetic arguments about the australian submarine bid.

    • Tachomanx

      I expected to find you around here, qute predictable although it’s kind of weird how you seem to scan trhough news to find chances to snipe away your garbage. Do you even get out? Remember what the Sun was?

      Anyway, the program has so far treded along, with the expected delays such programs face elsewhere on the world, and shows no signs of not yielding results.

      As for the resources, they always seem to be available so don’t worry so much and instead how about finding a better argument beyond budget? You are starting to repeat yourself over your pathetic arguments about the australian submarine bid.

      • TV Monitor

        Tachomanx

        I can’t wait to see you asking on your death bed if the Japanese stealth fighter has flown yet.

      • Tachomanx

        That’s your best argument little guy? No wonder you can’t come up with something new on either the fighter jet or the australia bid.

      • TV Monitor

        Tachomanx

        No wonder you can’t come up with something new

        Both France and Germany are busy reminding Australia that China would retaliate if Australia bought Japanese subs, and that their subs have the seal of approval from Beijing.

        In addition, France is claiming Japanese lithium batteries on Soryu could explode underwater like they did on Boeing 787s.

      • Tachomanx

        Which proves that their arguments have become empty cheap rethoric. Seeing how Japan has basically blasted them out of the race already and this is the last dirty trick up their sleeves! Thanks for comfirming it little guy.

        The tech has come some ways ever since and plenty of such planes have gone about without issues (flown in a couple of them in very lenghty flights just last year and no problem) for a while now so the argument is now somewhat pathetic and a last strech from a desperate bidder with nothing else to offer to outshine the competition.

        So like them, you have resorted to cheap arguments and empty rethoric, so petty and so much like you.

      • Just here to comment

        Can’t access The Diplomat? Same.

      • Tachomanx

        Actually when the page is loading you can see the article, you just need to interrupt the loading when the text shows.

        The Diplomat for free! Only that free of comments too it seems. Guess they got enough of fellows like TV Monitor.

    • Just here to comment

      Can’t access The Diplomat? Me too.

  • Tachomanx

    If the F-3 is decided to be sought as a joint effort, the only ones I can imagine pitching in some resources are the U.S. and Australia.

    Maybe some european partners may attempt to get into as they will have to consider facing down the russian new fighters with more than the Typhoon, the Rafale or the Grippen.
    This since a paneuropean effort at this point to bring about a brand new ffth gen plane would take too long and too many resources to fully develop; the japanese option would be faster and certainly cheaper if many pool in on the project.

    • TV Monitor

      Tachomanx

      If the F-3 is decided to be sought as a joint effort, the only ones I can imagine pitching in some resources are the U.S.

      The US 6th gen doesn’t start until 2030 and won’t enter service by 2045. The entire Japanese fighter fleet excluding the F-35 would have gone junk by then. This is why Japan has no choice but to order 100 additional F-35s in 2019, because Japan can’t allow its fighter strength to fall below certain number while facing Chinese threats.

      Australia.

      Australia is done with fighter purchases, their air force consists of 75 F-35s, and plans to sell back the Super Hornets they have to the US Navy once they have all F-35s delivered.

      Maybe some european partners may attempt to get into

      There is a pan-European fighter program, but it won’t start until 2030 at the earliest. NEURON is the project designed to preserve European engineering skills until then.

      I wasn’t kidding that the only non-Chinese Asian fighter jet that will enter service before 2030 is the KFX.

      • Tachomanx

        The joint development is to see and develop future technologies that could be integrated into a sixth gen fighter. Like the self repair system, the fly by optics, heat resistant materials for the HSE engines and whatnot. Helping Japan build it up does not only helps an ally, it helps them get in place what they will need afterwards.

        Australia is aiming to expand it’s defense budget in a massive manner in the coming decades, which mean much more fighters that just 75 F-35 and with the coming sub deal, to add to Australia air industry advanced capabilities would be a bonus to create more jobs and add another sector to the country’s list of technical skills.

        With their current economic crunch, it will be a miracle if it doesn’t get scrapped or hopelessly delayed to kingdom come. Best to get on board on something already on track. FRance and the UK already have arms development deals with Japan so jumping to develop the F-3 would be quite advantageous for their own industries and budgets.

        The KF-X is in high doubt after the U.S. tech denial so don’t put too much hope on that one little guy. It is also just an advanced 4 gen fighter so it’s nothing that special either.

      • TV Monitor

        Tachomanx

        The joint development is to see and develop future technologies that could be integrated into a sixth gen fighter.

        Which is after 2030s, long after Japan’s F-15 and F-2 fleets would have gone rotten. This is why Japan has no choice but to order 100 additional F-35s in 2019.

        which mean much more fighters that just 75 F-35

        75 confirmed in the latest defense whitepaper.

        FRance and the UK already have arms development deals with Japan

        France and UK don’t have anything planned until 2030s. Their Rafales and Eurofighters are good through 2040s.

        The KF-X is in high doubt

        This is the only project with a $30 billion funding commitments from two governments. Yes, it is funded and is already in full scale development. Eurojet and GE are in heated publicity wars over engine bidding right now.

        It is also just an advanced 4 gen fighter

        It is advertised as an advanced 4th gen in order not to alarm US government while negotiating tech transfers. This sort of thing is done all the time, like Korea’s 7,600 ton destroyer is bigger than US cruisers, while Korea’s “3,000 ton” submarine is really 3,800 ton surfaced(around 900 ton heavier than the Soryu) and submerged displacement unknown.

        You will see what it really is when it rolls out of production line.

      • Tachomanx

        The F-3 is expected to enter production before the 2030’s more like between 2025 and 2028. Also, the F-2 is expected to leave service around those dates as to be replaced by the F-3 properly.
        Nevertheless, there is a chance of additional F-35 orders though I don’t think in the numbers you put.

        And as Asutralia aims to expand it’s defense budget it will need to expand it’s air force since 75 F-35 aren’t enough to counter China’s moves even in league with the U.S. and Japan. They’ll be interested on a 5th gen fighter upon which they can learn a few things ragarding aircraft production and development.

        If it’s in full scale development, how come they haven’t decided on the engines or on how to replace the parts the U.S. denied them? Keep barking little guy.

        So Korea is cheating the U.S.? Can’t see that going very far before the axe falls down on cooperation and other matters. No wonder the U.S. is starting to deny stuff to Korea, you can expect more in the future I bet.

      • TV Monitor

        Tachomanx

        The F-3 is expected to enter production before the 2030’s more like between 2025 and 2028.

        And the American and European fighter jets don’t start development until 2030 and enter service until 2045. Japan has no choice but to buy additional F-35s, the writing is already on the wall. If Japan wants the F-3 instead of the F-35, then it must begin its full scale development now without any partner(There are no available willing partner nations at the moment), which Japan can’t do because of financial problems.

        And as Asutralia aims to expand it’s defense budget it will need to
        expand it’s air force since 75 F-35 aren’t enough to counter China’s
        moves

        Chinese jets can’t reach Australia. Australia is focused on building naval forces, not air forces.

        If it’s in full scale development, how come they haven’t decided on the
        engines

        It is in the final stage of the bidding process and the result should be out next month.

        or on how to replace the parts the U.S. denied them?

        The local parts intended for the Block 2 units will be pushed onto Block 1 units in partially completed form. For example, the local AESA will only have A2A mode by 2019 and A2G mode by 2025, but they will have to install that onto the KFX Block 1 and upgrade when the A2G mode is ready.

      • Tachomanx

        And as I mentioned, pitching in helps them get in contact with future technologies or even cut costs and get a new plane ahead of schedule or a mid gap plane considering their financial issues at the present and forseeable times. It’s not really far fetched if you consider that their development would have to start from scratch while Japan already has been developing these technologies for a number of years.

        Australia is already sending aircraft to the SCS and no defense expansion goes without a powerful air compliment. Also, you forget to mention that China is developing carriers so Australia will need aircraft. The joint development is almost a no brainer here as the country aligns itself with the U.S. firmly in regional affairs.

        Yeah right, then all the analysts killing the project already? This thing will be mostly an advanced hornet from the looks of it.

      • TV Monitor

        Tachomanx

        It’s not really far fetched if you consider that their development would have to start from scratch while Japan already has been developing these technologies for a number of years.

        I don’t think you are getting the picture.

        The average F-15J airframe would be 50 years old by 2030, and remaining airframe lives are burning out fast due to all the scrambles required due to PLA flybys. The PLA is hell bent on wearing down the JASDF fast so that the JASDF would have no jets left to scramble over the Diaoyu Islands.

        The F-2 has a fixed lifespan of 30 years due to their composite airframe which is approaching fast.

        Japan must order new jets by 2019 if it were to have any kind of credible flying air force by 2030

        Australia is already sending aircraft to the SCS and no defense expansion goes without a powerful air compliment.

        USN P-8s fly alone. Beside, the F-35 cannot possibly keep up with the P-3/P-8 in endurance, they run out of gas in 2 hours.

        Also, you forget to mention that China is developing carriers so Australia will need aircraft.

        Chinese carriers aren’t meant for Australia, they are meant for South China Sea.

        Beside, no Chinese carrier could survive past the first island chain if there were shooting wars.

        Yeah right, then all the analysts killing the project already?

        Huh?

        This thing will be mostly an advanced hornet from the looks of it.

        Advanced Super Hornet was analyzed during the Alternatives Analysis and ruled out due to not meeting the minimum performance requirement, which is to outperform F-16 Block 52 in air combat configurations in all performance metrics. While that sounds easy, there are only two western jets that could do this, the F-22 and the Eurofighter Typhoon.

      • TV Monitor

        Tachomanx

        The joint development is to see and develop future technologies that could be integrated into a sixth gen fighter.

        Which is after 2030s, long after Japan’s F-15 and F-2 fleets would have gone rotten. This is why Japan has no choice but to order 100 additional F-35s in 2019.

        which mean much more fighters that just 75 F-35

        75 confirmed in the latest defense whitepaper.

        FRance and the UK already have arms development deals with Japan

        France and UK don’t have anything planned until 2030s. Their Rafales and Eurofighters are good through 2040s.

        The KF-X is in high doubt

        This is the only project with a $30 billion funding commitments from two governments. Yes, it is funded and is already in full scale development. Eurojet and GE are in heated publicity wars over engine bidding right now.

        It is also just an advanced 4 gen fighter

        It is advertised as an advanced 4th gen in order not to alarm US government while negotiating tech transfers. This sort of thing is done all the time, like Korea’s 7,600 ton destroyer is bigger than US cruisers, while Korea’s “3,000 ton” submarine is really 3,800 ton surfaced(around 900 ton heavier than the Soryu) and submerged displacement unknown.

        You will see what it really is when it rolls out of production line.

    • James

      I can’t imagine Australia contributing to joint development; they just don’t have the skills or resources. Australia doesn’t even manufacture wristwatches let alone fighter jets. Even the (former?) defense minster stated that he wouldn’t trust the local industry to “build a canoe” in the debate to build or acquire submarines. Even now Australia is pleading with Japan to carry out the construction there just so that more jobs are created.

      • Tachomanx

        Japan has already pledged to not only build the submarines in Australia but also provide a worker training program in Japan building a Soryu.

        Indonesia also lacks such capabilities yet they are pitching in for the embattled KF-X with money.
        Australia could do the same and get access to part of the development so Australia can start developing their own industry if only at select areas.

      • TV Monitor

        Tachomanx

        Indonesia also lacks such capabilities yet they are pitching in for the embattled KF-X with money.

        Indonesia has an aircraft industry.

        Australia could do the same and get access to part of the development so
        Australia can start developing their own industry if only at select
        areas.

        Australia doesn’t have an aircraft industry.

      • Tachomanx

        And yet Indonesia is basically just forwarding money as the best export aircraft it had was jointly designed and produced with Spain. Not exactly groundbreaking.

        I said Australia could start one. It already has naval and defense industries in place, adding a budding air one would b the logical next step forward.

      • Tachomanx

        And yet Indonesia is basically just forwarding money as the best export aircraft it had was jointly designed and produced with Spain. Not exactly groundbreaking.

        I said Australia could start one. It already has naval and defense industries in place, adding a budding air one would b the logical next step forward.

  • Michael Nesom

    This thing does not look that formidable, it has the wrong shape to be truly stealthy. Does not look big enough to have internal bays, we won’t know its performance for awhile but doesn’t look super manoeuvrable just a first impression though. Could be a trainer or technology demonstrator

    • Joe Schmoe

      “technology demonstrator”
      Just Google it. lol

    • Joe Schmoe

      “technology demonstrator”
      Just Google it. lol

  • Michael Nesom

    This thing does not look that formidable, it has the wrong shape to be truly stealthy. Does not look big enough to have internal bays, we won’t know its performance for awhile but doesn’t look super manoeuvrable just a first impression though. Could be a trainer or technology demonstrator

  • http://Aol.com Ex Tempus

    …how does this new jet from Japan compare to the F-35 Lightning, Saab Gripen and can it replace these jets mentioned?

  • http://Aol.com Ex Tempus

    …how does this new jet from Japan compare to the F-35 Lightning, Saab Gripen and can it replace these jets mentioned?

  • Tachomanx

    Keep barking little guy (Though be wary of hungry countrymen) the program remains funded, marching on and likely to yield the desired results.
    Also, you seem to once again cherry pick information of your articles.

    Japan is likely to go in an international effort with western companies and likely get a helping hand from them in exchange for some of the more advances technologies being applied like the modern heat resistant material, HSE technology, self repair systems, ski radar and fly by optics.

    All of those make for excellent systems to invest in for futue 6th gen fighters and make it worth pitching in with development of the F-3 if Japan decides to have partners in it.
    And the U.S. and Australia in particular are likely to be the most interested parties as they advance their defense integration on the same line of the submarines deal.