Japan-made stealth aircraft takes to skies for 1st time
With an eye to the future, the nation’s first stealth airplane made its maiden flight on April 22, making Japan the fourth country in the world to successfully fly a manned stealth aircraft. The experimental X-2 jet took off from Nagoya Airport in central Japan at 8:47 a.m. and soared over Nagano and Gifu prefectures. After about 26 minutes, the X-2 landed at the Air Self-Defense Force’s Gifu Air Base in Kakamigahara, Gifu Prefecture.
Developed as a test bed for stealth technology planned to be incorporated in the ASDF’s next-generation fighter, the X-2 is equipped with high-powered, compact engines and is designed to be highly manoeuvrable. “The aircraft is significant in securing the technology needed in the development of a future fighter plane,” Defense Minister Gen Nakatani said at an April 22 news conference. More than 200 companies, including Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. and IHI Corp., have participated in the X-2 project. The project started in fiscal 2009 with a budget of about 40 billion yen ($366 million). The aircraft was completed in 2014. After trial runs of its engines, the stealth plane has been put through taxiing tests on the airport runway since February. The Defense Ministry’s Acquisition, Technology and Logistics Agency will further test the experimental jet, mainly from Gifu Air Base, to decide on incorporating the X-2’s stealth technology in the nation’s future fighter jets by fiscal 2018.