Japan could soon become the fourth country to test-fly a stealth jet developed at home, reported The Japan Times. The advanced technology demonstrator—also dubbed the ATD-X or “Shinshin”—has already performed ground runs, and the maiden flight of the demonstrator could happen by the end of March. Japan began developing the stealth aircraft in 2009 and has invested 40 billion yen ($355 million) in the program so far. Mitsubishi Heavy Industries developed the X-2 fuselage. The 2014 easing of an arms-export ban potentially allows Japanese arms builders to sell their products abroad, but the Pacific nation has not decided whether to build, buy, or jointly develop a replacement for its? non-stealth F-2 fighter, which is set to be retired around 2030, according to the article. While the demonstrator is Japan’s first home-grown stealth jet, the prototype is not the only stealth aircraft being built there. In October, Northrop Grumman completed the first fuselage for the first F-35 strike fighter to be assembled in Japan. Japan plans to buy 42 F-35As. Mitsubishi will assemble and checkout the Japanese-made F-35s.
U.S. Air Force F-35s and F-22s regularly deploy deep into the Pacific region from Alaska, Utah, and Hawaii. In the future, though, the head of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command would like to see the Air Force permanently station fifth-generation aircraft west of the international date line—closer to China.