Japan Unveils New Stealth Fighter

You can see it, but radar doesn’t

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.

Kelsey D. Atherton
Kelsey D. Atherton

Kelsey D. Atherton is a defense technology journalist based in Albuquerque, New Mexico. His work on drones, lethal AI, and nuclear weapons has appeared in Slate, The New York Times, Foreign Policy, and elsewhere.