The Japan Minister of Defense Taro Kono said the prime contractor – almost certainly Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) will be expected to act as the lead systems integrator on the project, which has been dubbed F-X Fighter Aircraft. The Japan Minister of Defense (Bōei-shō) will adopt a single-prime system. The selected company will be responsible for integrating systems and the engine. The Japan Minister of Defense indicated that the MoD had now commenced the process for selecting companies to be involved in the development project but did not elaborate.
In the media briefing, Kono also confirmed that the MoD is currently considering developing the F-X alongside the United Kingdom and the United States. The latter is regarded as leading candidate, given its strong diplomatic, economic, strategic, and industrial ties with Japan. The F-X project is led within the Japan Minister of Defense by a dedicated office set up in April. Its responsibilities include technical investigations, budget execution, information security issues, and the control of intellectual property.
Although the prime contractor for Japan’s stealth fighter program, tentatively called the F-X or F-3, has yet to be selected, the program is already well underway. A flight demonstrator called X-2 Shinshin first flew in 2016 after extensive flight testing with a radio-controlled scale model. The X-2 airframe, built by Japan’s Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, is intended to provide Japan with insights into stealth technology—a first for the island nation.
Driven largely by advances in the capabilities fielded by both a resurgent Russia and a rising China, both of whom are increasingly eager to exercise their influence over strategically vital areas, like the East and South China Seas in particular – Japan has sought to respond with a combination of the F-35 and a domestically produced sixth-generation air superiority fighter. The Japan Minister of Defense unveiled plans to start production of the still-prototype airframe in 2031.