As the first stealth fighter jet created in the land of the rising sun, this aircraft will be Japan’s basis for the future of their Air Self-Defense Force. In this article, we will be giving you all details you need to know about Japan’s fifth-generation combat aircraft, the Mitsubishi X-2 Shinshin.
1. AIRCRAFT ORIGIN
With China’s strength rapidly growing year by year, causing neighboring countries to join the arms race, Japan would not be left behind. On April 22, 2016, the X-2 Shinshin took its first flight. This flight resulted from years of testing and development, which began in the early years of the 21st Century after getting denied by the U.S. Air Force in procuring a fleet of F-22 Raptors, which was supposedly Japan’s replacement for their aging fleet of F-4, F-15, and F-16 fighters.
Mitsubishi started producing this aircraft in 2009 under the supervision of Japan’s Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics Agency (ATLA), with the primary goal of building a prototype that would create the Mitsubishi F-3, rumored to be a sixth-generation combat aircraft of the Japan Air Self-Defense Force.
2. AIRCRAFT TESTS
Since this combat jet’s primary function is to demonstrate Stealth Experimental Technology, there’s only one operational aircraft from Mitsubishi. This prototype was then regularly tested and developed. Then, in 2018, X-2’s testing ended after completing only 34 out of 50 planned test flights. Japan will then use the data collected in the development and testing stage of the X-2 for their future references in creating another fifth-generation fighter aircraft.
3. AIRCRAFT SPECIFICATIONS
The Mitsubishi X-2 Shinshin is 46 feet long, has a wingspan of 29 feet, and is 14 feet tall. As stated by Sebastien Roblin in his article for The National Interest, a Japanese defense official claimed in an interview that the Shinshin “looks no bigger than a giant beetle viewed from ten kilometers away.”
The X-2 is a single-seat prototype that has an empty weight of 9,700 kg. According to wikimili.com, the aircraft uses a twin turbofan IHI XF5-1 low bypass engine with afterburners. These engines are responsible for the Shinshin’s maximum speed of Mach 2.25. Additionally, it has a standard range of 2,900 km and a combat range of 761 km.
4. AIRCRAFT FEATURES
According to an article from airforce-technology.com, the cockpit will include a fly-by-fiber optics flight control system. Its function is to facilitate efficient data transfer between the cockpit and the aircraft’s control surfaces through an electronic interface. It also has an onboard self-repairing flight control system that provides the fighter jet with automatic failure detection in the flight control system.
Another great feature of this aircraft would be its avionics as it includes an active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar, advanced electronic countermeasures (ECM), and electronic warfare support measures (ESM). These integrated systems will improve the pilot’s experience and safety onboard the Mitsubishi X-2 Shinshin.
Moreover, a full authority digital electronics control (FADEC) system controls both of the X-2 engines. With one high-pressure turbine, one low-pressure turbine, and three-dimensional thrust vector control technology. It’ll give the aircraft better propulsion when taking off.
However, even with this project’s success, Japan is still unsure if they would continue on this project, leading to developing another domestically-made aircraft or order a similar fighter jet from their international allies.
5. AIRCRAFT ACQUISITION
Clement Charpentreau wrote an article for AeroTime Hub that discussed the X-2 Shinshin fighter program’s potential termination. He noted that the Japanese Self Defense Force (JSDF) is currently considering acquiring 100 additional F-35s from the United States for a total of 8.8 billion USD. When you compare it to Japan’s estimated cost for developing its stealth fighter for 40 billion USD in addition to the cost of the X-2 project, which would be around 322 million USD, hence, the acquisition of 100 additional F-35 fighter jets would seem a more practical choice for Japan.
6. NEW STEALTH FIGHTER
In April of 2018, the Japanese Self Defense Force (JSDF) had already inquired to Boeing and Lockheed Martin about the possibility of jointly developing a new stealth fighter. A proposed aircraft is a hybrid of the Raptor and F-35 Lightning II. The reports further say that this is the likely path for JSDF.
7. MITSUBISHI F-3
Japan’s 2019 Midterm Defense Review revealed that the Japanese Self Defense Force would push through the development plan for Japan’s domestically-made sixth-generation Mitsubishi F-3 fighter jet. According to the National Interests blog, F-3’s performance requirements will be released in the 2020 budget, with developments that will officially begin in 2021 and a first flight targeted for 2030. The success of this program could mean that Japan could break its long-standing dependency on U.S.-based defense companies.
8. AIRCRAFT COMPARISON
Every fifth-generation fighter jet uses stealth technology and advanced radar systems. The notable difference between the Mitsubishi X-2 Shinshin and other fifth-gen fighters is its size. The X-2 is only around 14 meters long and ten meters wide, while the average size of a fifth-gen aircraft, like the F-22 Raptor or Russia’s Su-57, is more or less than 19 meters long and 14 meters wide.
Overall, the Mitsubishi X-2 Shinshin features world-class and cutting-edge technologies developed in Japan. Hence, it gives us a glimpse of what subsequent fighter jets may look like and their potential capabilities.
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