Joining several other notable world air powers, Japan is in the process of developing an indigenous 5th Generation Fighter concept under the ATD-X "Shinshin" designation (since updated to become the "X-2"). The initiative is branded under the Mitsubishi Heavy Industry (MHI) label - who also produces the Lockheed F-16 Fighting Falcon locally - and headed by the Japanese Ministry of Defense Technical Research and Development Institute ("TRDI"). The ATD-X is a concept demonstrator-only design at thie time and not intended as a direct copy for a more formal serial production, finalized 5th Generation Fighter. However, any data collected during its testing and development would most certainly be used in a future 5th Gen fighter attempt. The ATD-X program, like other 5th Gen initiatives worldwide, is a costly endeavor for the island nation and always at the mercy of local politics. It has since evolved into an unveiled technology demonstrator and is scheduled for its first flight sometime in 2014-2015.
The ATD-X initiative was born from the rebuffed attempt by the Japanese to procure the advanced F-22 Raptor from the US government. The country has committed to purchasing 42 of the planned F-35A Lightning II models however and may add more to the order in time. This has not derailed the ATD-X program.
The preliminary Shinshin concept envisions a faceted airframe in the mold begun by the American Lockheed F-22 Raptor air dominance fighter. The design positions a powerful Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) scanning radar system under a nose cone assembly ahead of the cockpit in the usual way. The fuselage is well-blended into the wings while sharp angles are specially used throughout. Assuming a twin engine design, the ATD-X will sport twin rectangular intakes to either side of the cockpit. Wings will include main appendages and tailplanes as normal with outward-canted vertical tail fins at the rear. The engines will exhaust through specially-designed low-profile, low-signature exhaust ports (thrust vectoring is envisioned) under and between each rudder. Unlike 4th Generation Fighters relying on fly-by-wire control, the ATD-X is slated for the newer, speedier fly-by-optics control system. Also intended for the ATD-X demonstrator is an onboard self-repair facility which will be able to detect and, to the best of its ability, diagnose and repair failed/failing control systems. The undercarriage will be wholly retractable. In keeping with the low-signature, low-profile nature of 5th Gen Fighters, the Shinshin will be developed with an internal weapons bay, radar absorbing coatings for its skin and advanced technologies throughout.
In addition to the airframe, engines remain the other half of the 5th Generation Fighter challenge and this challenge has been handed to Ishikawajima-Harima Heavy Industries (IHI) for possible development and production of new powerplant (IHI XF5-1 turbofans) with up to 20,000lb thrust. It is assumed that, like the groundbreaking F-22, the ATD-X will feature "supercruise" support which allows for reaching supersonic flight without use of thirsty (and missile-guiding) afterburner.
A mockup of the ATD-X was unveiled in 2005 while a compact remote-controlled demonstrator mimicking the expected Shinshin design was tested in 2006. The project was authorized with proper funding in 2007. Should the ATD-X program yield an indigenous Japanese 5th Gen development, the upcoming production series aircraft will be given the designation of Mitsubishi F-3 in following the Mitsubishi F-2 (F-16) and the original Cold War-era Mitsubishi F-1.
The ATD-X features a running length of 46.5 feet, a wingspan of 30 feet and an overall height of 14.8 feet. Maximum take-off weight is estimated at 28,660lb. Projected straight-line speeds could reach Mach 2.
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May 2014 - The ADT-X was officially revealed.
July 2014 - It was announced that the ATD-X technology demonstrator had completed its static testing phase during 2013. The vehicle was then rolled out in May of 2014 and will begin its formal evaluation to test its advanced design features - this will lead the program into 2016. Engines have been verified as 2 x IHI XF5-1 turbofan engines of 11,000lb thrust each. The airframe is compared to the size of the Saab Gripen multirole fighter.
February 2016 - The ATD-X program name has since been revised to become "X-2". The first prototype is epected to fly sometime in February of 2016 and help to demostrate several key systems of the finalized F-3 production form including stealth, thrust vectoring through its IHI XF5-1 engines, and "fly-by-light" control scheme. This first flight will come some four years later than originally intended.
It is expected that a finalized, operational level production fighter based on the X-2 will not be available until around 2030.
April 2016 - The prototype X-2 Shinshin completed its first flight on April 22nd, 2016.
April 2017 - Some fifty flights involving the X-2 demonstrator are planned over a twelve-month period by Mitsubishi.
November 2017 - It was announced that the X-2 demonstrator had achieved the desired goals during its test flying stage, paving the way for further development of an indigenous 5th Generation Fighter for Japan.
December 2017 - It was announced that the X-2 demonstrator will continue to provide flight testing data until the phase's conclusion in March of 2018.
April 2018 - It was announced that the X-2 had completed its flight testing phase. However, the aircraft only flew 34 of its originally planned 50 flights.
November 2018 - Full-scale development on a future Japanese fighter is currently scheduled for April 2019. Production is tentatively scheduled for 2028 at which time the F-2 series fighters will be reaching the end of their service lives. This would place the service introduction period for a new indigenous fighter sometime during the early-2030s.
Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) - Japan Manufacturer(s)
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