National

Japan unveils first homegrown stealth fighter prototype

Kyodo

A prototype of the first Japan-made stealth fighter was unveiled to the media Thursday at a Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. factory in central Japan.

The Defense Ministry’s Acquisition, Technology and Logistics Agency displayed the prototype, which was developed by a consortium of domestic companies led by Mitsubishi Heavy, at the plant in the town of Toyoyama, Aichi Prefecture.

The fighter will first undergo ground tests before making its maiden flight in mid-February or later.

The country’s first domestically made stealth fighter — 14.2 meters long, 9.1 meters wide and 4.5 meters high — is scheduled to fly from Nagoya airport, which is adjacent to the factory, to the Japanese Air Self-Defense Force’s Gifu Air Base in Kakamigahara in neighboring Gifu Prefecture.

The agency said the development of a full-scale test model began in fiscal 2009, with costs for the program totaling about ¥39.4 billion (about $331 million).

The fighter features stealth capabilities, with the use of carbon fiber absorbing radio waves and making it difficult for radar to detect the aircraft.

The agency plans to assess data obtained from the prototype and decide by fiscal 2018 whether to develop domestically or engage in joint international development of aircraft to replace the ASDF’s F-2 fighter.