Japan’s Ministry of Defense (Bōei-shō) has been quietly laying plans for a new stealth fighter to replace the F-2, one capable of outclassing the numerically superior Chinese air force. Nicknamed the “Godzilla” fighter by observers due to its size, the Mitsubishi F-X is expected to enter service in 2035. Bradley Perrett at Aviation Week has nicknamed the large aircraft “Godzilla,” both a nod to the popular Japanese sci-fi films as well as to the aircraft’s size, which is bigger than the large, 62-foot-long F-22 Raptor.
Tokyo has moved to advance the Future Fighter concept aircraft toward a more concrete program that can yield a usable fighter, changing the name to the “F-X” program, releasing new concept art of the aircraft envisioned and setting aside some $256.5 million in fiscal year 2020 for “F-X related research projects” and “conceptual design in Japan-led development.” Japan’s Ministry of Defense will develop the F-X so that we can deliver the first production type of the new aircraft before the F-2 retirement starts.
Mitsubishi will be the lead contractor in the program, as it’s spent years developing indigenous advanced stealth technology via the X-2 Shinshin program, which it began when the US Congress banned sale of the new F-22 Raptor to other countries in 1998. The X-2 testbed, which flew for the first time in 2016 and was once called the Advanced Technology Demonstrator, has helped Tokyo pioneer its own thrust vectoring system and powerful new engines, radars and composite materials.
Tokyo has also developed its own equivalent of the Pratt & Whitney F119 turbofan engine used in Lockheed’s F-22 to give it super-cruise capability, testing the XF-9-1 engines developed by Ishikawa Heavy Industries in 2018 on the X-2 Shinshin. Other technologies tested in the X-2 that may make their way into the F-X include EMP-resistant, fiber-optic fly-by-wire avionics as well as “self-repairing” flight systems capable of compensating for damage in mid-flight, the blog The National Interest noted.