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Japan Officially Has an All-New Jet Fighter In the Works

Japan Officially Has an All-New Jet Fighter In the Works

The Japanese government has officially proposed a timeline for a new fighter jet designed to maintain an aerial advantage over potential North Korean and Chinese adversaries. The unnamed fighter, which will be optimized for air-to-air combat, will replace the Mitsubishi F-2 fighter jet, which was originally based on the American F-16 Fighting Falcon. Tokyo expects the new fighter to enter production in 2031.

The plan, according to Defense News, was laid out by Japan’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party. It envisions selecting a prime contractor as soon as October 2020, followed by construction of the first aircraft by 2024. First flight would follow in 2028, followed by production in 2031. The new jet will officially join the Japan Air Self Defense Force, Japan’s air force, in 2035.

Japan had originally planned to replace its fleet of 200 plus F-15J Eagle fighters with the Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor but the U.S. Congress, fearing a leak of F-22 technology if the plane were sold abroad, passed a law to prohibit the jet’s export.

Instead, Japan is purchasing 157 F-35 Joint Strike Fighters and will continue to fly approximately 90 Mitsubishi F-2s. A larger, more robust version of the F-16 first developed in the 1990s, the F-2 will age out in the 2030s when the new jet will take its place. It is unclear how many planes Japan would ultimately build, or whether or not it would be offered on the international fighter market. Given the extreme cost of developing a fighter, Tokyo will probably try to sell as many of the jets overseas as possible.

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