Japan throttles up work on homegrown fighter jet

Japan throttles up work on homegrown fighter jet

The experimental ATD-X may spawn into a stealth fighter. (Photo courtesy of the Ministry of Defense)

TOKYO — Japan will begin test flights next year to determine whether the country has the right stuff to build a fighter jet without relying on Western contractors.

The Ministry of Defense plans to seek around 40 billion yen ($384 million) in funding for the effort for the fiscal year starting next April.

The government will decide by fiscal 2018 whether to proceed with the development of a purely Japanese fighter, according to its latest medium-term defense program.

Production of the F-2, a fighter jointly by Japan and the U.S., ended in fiscal 2011. The last of the jets are expected to be retired from the Japanese Air Self-Defense Force around fiscal 2028.

To gauge the feasibility of creating an indigenous fighter, the ministry’s Technical Research & Development Institute began work on the Advanced Technology Demonstrator-X (ATD-X) four years ago. Researchers have made progress in a number of areas, including lightweight airframe designs and missile-firing mechanisms.

The ATD-X is slated for its first flight using stand-in engines next January. Testing of stealth airframe designs is to begin in April. Prototyping of the actual engines — a joint effort by IHI, Mitsubishi Heavy and other defense contractors — is to start as soon as fiscal 2015 and take about five years. Heat-resistant ceramics, an area in which Japan excels, will be employed for the turbine blades.

 

Creating a fighter jet of its own will prove fiscally as well as technically demanding for Japan. Initial costs are estimated at 500 billion yen to 800 billion yen, but test flights and the development of ancillary equipment will likely add significantly to the total.

Even if Japan takes a pass on the end result, the defense ministry reckons that possessing its own fighter technology will work to the country’s advantage in joining multinational arms development programs and negotiating to buy other countries’ fighters

Chinese fighters intercepted U.S. aircraft in 3 more incidents: report

WASHINGTON (Kyodo) — Chinese military jets intercepted U.S. naval aircraft in at least three incidents earlier this year in addition to a case Washington made public last week, a U.S. paper said Monday.

The Wall Street Journal,  a group of pilots” may have been involved in the “dangerously close encounters” that occurred in international airspace over the South China Sea.

The U.S. officials do not believe the aggressive flying was directly authorized by the Chinese military, the report said.

The series of incidents underscore “how deep-seated suspicions remain, despite attempts by some senior officers and political leaders on both sides to build a working relationship,” the report said.

The U.S. government said Friday that it protested to China about a near-miss incident involving military aircraft on Aug. 19 in which a Chinese fighter intercepted a U.S. patrol plane and came within 10 meters of it over the sea.

A U.S. Defense Department official said Monday that U.S. and Chinese officials will hold two-day talks starting Tuesday on the issue of “rules of behavior for air and maritime activities,” probably including last week’s incident.

“This is all about air and maritime stuff, so I’m sure incidents like this are of concern,” the Pentagon official told reporters.

Rear Adm. James Foggo, assistant deputy chief of naval operations, will represent the United States in the bilateral dialogue with China, the official said, without providing information about the Chinese delegation.

A first round of U.S.-China talks on the issue was held on July 11, the official added.

U.S. Marines send 2 Osprey aircraft to Sapporo amid local protests

TOKYO (Kyodo) — The U.S. Marine Corps on Saturday sent two of its MV-22 Osprey aircraft from a base in western Japan to Sapporo, via a stop at Yokota Air Base in Tokyo, for a weekend air show.

The U.S. Marine Corps sends two of its MV-22 Osprey aircraft from a base in western Japan to Sapporo, via a stop at Yokota Air Base in Tokyo on July 19. © Kyodo

It was the first time for an MV-22 to fly to the Tokyo area since the tilt-rotor aircraft’s deployment in Japan in 2012. Osprey flights have often been met with local opposition due to a number of high-profile accidents prior to the plane’s deployment to Japan.

The two aircraft left the U.S. base in Iwakuni in the western prefecture of Yamaguchi on Saturday morning and landed at the Yokota base, apparently for refueling.

The Sapporo municipal government in Hokkaido has requested the organizer of the air show at a Ground Self-Defense Force camp in the city to stop the MV-22s’ arrival due to safety concerns among local residents. Hundreds of people staged a rally in Sapporo on Friday against the visit by the aircraft.

A total of 24 MV-22s have been deployed at the Marines’ Futenma Air Station in Okinawa. The two MV-22s will leave Sapporo on Monday.

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