• The Associated Press

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The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency plans to develop a prototype supersonic jet that is quieter and more fuel efficient than the retired Concorde within the next six years, officials said Wednesday.

Japan has been trying to boost its lagging position in aerospace by developing a next-generation airliner that can fly between Tokyo and Los Angeles in about three hours.

Following a decade of experiments, JAXA said it will develop a prototype supersonic jet in a six-year project estimated to cost 20 billion yen.

JAXA said it hopes a successor to the supersonic Concorde will be able to enter commercial service by around 2020.

Among the hurdles are two difficulties that plagued the Concorde, high noise and high fuel consumption. Japan has successfully tested an engine that can theoretically reach speeds of up to Mach 5.5, or more than five times the speed of sound, though test flights have had mixed results so far.

JAXA spokesman Satoki Kurokawa said the primary goal for the prototype is to achieve a 50 percent reduction in engine noise. JAXA also wants to improve fuel efficiency, flight control and landing, he said.

Japan could use a breakthrough in supersonic flight to boost its competitive position in aerospace, in which it is lagging well behind the United States, France and Russia.

Japan has produced only one successful commercial aircraft since the war, the YS-11. The turboprop, which debuted in 1962, was considered a technical but not a marketing success, and only 182 were made.

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