Japan has rolled out its ATD-X Shinshin fighter technology demonstrator
26th Jul 2014
Japan has rolled out its ATD-X Shinshin fighter technology demonstrator, is considering buying more Lockheed Martin F-35s and will decide within four years whether it will develop its next combat aircraft alone or with a foreign partner.
When the ATD-X was launched in 2007, Japan’s vision was to progress from its then-current fighter program, a heavily modified F-16, to independent development. Now, with a policy change allowing defense exports, the technology from the demonstrator may end up in aircraft that emerge from foreign production lines as well as from one in Japan.
The single ATD-X aircraft, about the size of a Saab Gripen, is undergoing ground tests, says the defense ministry’s Technical Research and Development Institute (TRDI), the sponsor of the program. TRDI is due to fly the ATD-X this year, beginning an evaluation program that will run until 2016.
U.S. involvement in the program, probably peripheral, appears in TRDI’s budget statement for the fiscal year to March 31, 2014, which lists contracts signed with the U.S. Air Force in support of the program. One item, costing ¥114 million ($1.12 million), is for testing outside Japan. Another, for ¥760 million, is for unspecified training from the U.S. Air Force. Japanese authorities have not mentioned a plan to fly the ATD-X outside Japan. The U.S. clearly has refused to supply stealth technology for the ATD-X, since Japan sent a radar model of the intended design to France in 2005 for evaluation.
One function of the ATD-X is to serve as a radar target, supporting development of counter-stealth technology, because, TRDI has said, stealth aircraft are hard to simulate. In 2008, it hoped to use the ATD-X to validate the abilities of the FPS-5 radar, E-767 AWACS and Airboss infra-red turret to detect stealth aircraft. Six years later, it would not be surprising if other sensors have been added to the list.