Next month, Japan is going to fly their latest fighter, and they’re hoping no one notices. Well, not no one exactly, but as with every stealth fighter, the goal is a visual spectacle and a tiny radar blip. In the works for years, the Mitsubishi Advanced Technology Demonstrator-X, now renamed the X-2, is designed to fit into Japan’s modernizing, staunchier military. Did we mention it’s stealthy?
While many headlines (like, uh, ours) will note that the X-2 is a stealth fighter, it’s much closer to America’s X-47B in function: a technology demonstrator, more than a factory-ready design. While America is more than eager to export its stealthy jack-of-all-trades F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, the United States kept an exclusive monopoly on its air superiority fighter, the F-22. So for Japan to get a top-line aerial combatant, it has to make one itself.
Hence the X-2. It boasts two engines, like the F-22, and is 46 feet long by 30 feet wide and 15 feet tall. Stealth is usually achieved by a combination of materials that absorb, rather than reflect, radio waves, and by a body shape that reflects the waves away from the radar receiver.
We’ll have to wait until the X-2 flies to find out much more than the raw measurements, and it’ll be even longer than that to see if Japan decides to go from a stealth demonstrator to a working, deployed stealth fighter. Still, assuming the test is a success, Japan will be the fourth nation, after the United States, Russia, and China, to have a working stealth plane.