A prototype of Japan’s first stealth fighter jet is unlikely to be ready to ship by the end-of-March deadline due to delays in the flight testing schedule, sources close to the Defense Ministry said Sunday.
The aircraft, developed by a consortium led by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd., is expected to be delivered to the ministry in mid-April or later, they said.
The fighter — 14.2 meters long and 9.1 meters wide — will undergo flight testing in central Japan, including its maiden flight, after further ground tests, the source said.
The deadline for delivery was extended from March last year after it was determined that more testing of the engine and flight control system was needed.
The development of a full-scale test model began in fiscal 2009, and the cost of the program is estimated at about ¥39.4 billion ($346 million).
The fighter’s stealth capabilities stem from the use of carbon fiber that absorbs radio waves, making it difficult to detect by radar.
Of the two planned test flights, one will depart from Nagoya airport and fly to an Air-Self Defense Force base in Gifu Prefecture.
The second flight will take place at the base in Gifu, the sources said.
The Defense Ministry’s Acquisition, Technology and Logistics Agency plans to assess data from the prototype and decide by fiscal 2018 whether to develop the aircraft domestically or engage in the joint international development of aircraft to replace the Air Self-Defense Force’s F-2 fighter.