Did Japan drop its X-2 Shinshin fighter program?
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. They would join the 42 planes already ordered. But what happened to the Japanese F-3?
Some of the planes JSDF is considering would be of the F-35B variant, the STOVL version, which can be operated from an aircraft carrier. This decision seems coherent with recent commissioning of two helicopter carriers of the Izumo-class. The two ships, the biggest in the Japanese fleet, should be modified to receive the F-35s if the order is confirmed.
The order should help the JSDF to stay ahead of both Russian spy planes probing in the north of the country, and air space intrusions from Chinese fighters in the south.
However, it raises an important question: Is the F-3 still a thing?
Missing out on the F-22, Japan began to develop an indigenous 5th generation plane. With several notable differences compared to the U.S. fighter, including 3D vector thrusting that resembles more Russia’s Su-57, the project seemed to be on its way up until 2016, when the X-2 “Shinshin” prototype from Mitsubishi Heavy Industries carried out its maiden flight. Since then, however, not much has been said about the program.
In April 2018, after a request for information was sent to several British and U.S. manufacturers, Lockheed Martin made a unique offer: to develop a hybrid of the F-22 Raptor and the F-35 Lighting for the Japanese Air Force. This proposal from the U.S. manufacturer was the first time that anything related to the F-22 was ever offered to a foreign country, after the U.S. Congress decided in 1997 not to export the aircraft due to technologies being too critical for the nation’s safety, and this despite strong interest from Japan. But since then, it seems that the program reached a stalemate.
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