Japan’s defense minister Taro Kono told reporters on Mar. 27, 2020 that his ministry will decide on the development of the successor to the F-2 fighter by end of this year.
Noteworthy, the country unveiled on Jan. 29, 2016 the Mitsubishi X-2 Shinshin experimental aircraft. Also known as the ATD-X, the X-2 was developed for testing advanced stealth fighter aircraft technologies. The aircraft’s first flight took place on Apr. 22, 2016.
The fighter prototype was expected to be fully developed by 2018 and then leading to the Mitsubishi F-3, which should carry sixth-generation technology, and was expected to be produced in 2027.
However, by July 2018, Japan had gleaned sufficient information from flight tests for a determination, and decided that it would need to bring on-board international partners to complete this project.
Kono said Tokyo is still undecided between selecting U.S. or U.K. as joint development partners.
According to Alert 5 Military Aviation News, he also said the new fighter needs to have strong network capabilities and carry more missiles than the F-35.
Currently Japan’s F-35 total procurement is established at 147 aircraft which will make Japan the largest international customer on the F-35 Program.
On Dec. 18, 2018 in fact, the country’s National Security Council and Cabinet authorized acquisition for 105 additional F-35s beyond the already approved 42 F-35s in the Japan Program.
On Dec. 20, 2011, Japan originally selected the F-35A to replace Japan’s aging F-4 aircraft. Japan’s latest decision to further extend the requirement by another 105 F-35s to replace Japan Air Selfe Defense Force (JASDF) 100+ pre-MSIP F-15Js reflects Japan’s increasing role in promoting regional stability and enhancing the US-Japan security alliance. In addition to the 42 F-35As already authorized, Japan also approved for the first time, acquisition of a STOVL version. Expected mix of the additional 105 aircraft will be 63 F-35As and 42 F-35B STOVL jets to be produced and delivered in the future.