Mitsubishi Heavy Industries’ experimental fifth-generation fighter technology demonstrator X-2 “Shinshin” (formerly the ATD-X) for the first time took to the skies last Friday morning, The Japan Times reports. After the United States, China, and Russia, Japan became the fourth nation to test-fly an indigenously-developed stealth aircraft.
The X-2 painted in red and white colors took off from Mitsubishi testing center located at Nagoya aiport in Aichi Prefecture at 8:47am local time on Friday morning and flew for about 50 kilometers (31 miles) to Gifu Air Field, an airbase of the Japan Air Self-Defense Force, situated in the neighboring prefecture of Gifu, where it landed at 9:13am (See videos here and here).
During the brief test flight the aircraft performed a number of flight characteristics trials. The test pilot described the flight as “extremely stable” adding that the “control of the aircraft went exactly as in our simulated training sessions.” Furthermore, he noted: “[A]fter piloting the aircraft, I’m 100 percent positive the X-2 is magnificent and will meet the Ministry of Defense’s requirements.”
The test flight marks a significant milestone for Japan’s domestic aerospace industry. “The maiden flight was significant to secure the necessary capability for a next-generation fighter jet,” Japanese Defense Minister Gen Nakatani told reporters in Tokyo last Friday. “We can expect technological innovation in the aerospace industry as well as application of that technology in different fields.”
A consortium of 220 Japanese firms, with Mitsubishi Heavy Industries as the primary contractor developing the aircraft’s fuselage, has been working on the X-2 project for the past ten years. “The reason behind the development of the F-3 is the refusal of the United States to sell to Japan the Lockheed-Martin F-22 Raptor stealth air superiority fighter in the 2000s,” I explained previously. Lockheed-Martin purportedly has also been playing an undetermined role in the development of the X-2.
Mitsubishi Heavy Industries is expected to deliver the aircraft to the Japan Air Self-Defense Force in June after the completion of a second test flight and additional ground tests. Japan will decide over the next two years whether it will develop an indigenously-designed fifth-generation air superiority fighter, the F-3, by 2027 out of the current X-2 prototype. Only one full-scale X-2 aircraft has been constructed so far. So far, Japan has spent around 39.4 billion yen ($332 million) on the development of the aircraft.
As I explained previously (See: “Japan’s 5th Generation Stealth Fighter to Make Maiden Flight in Early 2016”):
The principal objective of the [X-2] program is to develop a research prototype aircraft — an “advanced technology demonstration unit” — to test the capacity of Japan’s defense industry to develop, among other things, a powerful fighter engine and various other indigenous stealth fighter aircraft technologies.
According to IHS Jane’s Defense Weekly, the aircraft has a length of 14.2 meters (46.5 feet) and a wingspan of 9 meters (30 feet). It is powered by two IHI XF5-1 low-bypass turbofans and has a maximum speed of Mach 2.25 (2,756 kilometers per hour) and a range of 2,900 kilometers (1,802 miles). Over the next few weeks, aviation experts ‘will continue analyzing data and check its stealth technology capability,” a Japanese defense official told AFP.