Japan’s Ministry of Defense (MoD) has kicked off the formalisation of a framework for the development of the Japan Air Self-Defense Force’s (JASDF) next-generation fighter aircraft, the F-X.
The current global and regional transition from fourth to fifth-generation fighter aircraft, like the F-22 Raptor and F-35 Joint Strike Fighter platforms, is reshaping the role of fighter fleets and the balance of power in the Indo-Pacific region.
Driven largely by advances in the capabilities fielded by both a resurgent Russia and a rising China, both of whom are increasingly eager to exercise their influence over strategically vital areas, like the East and South China Seas in particular.
The regional fighter aircraft race continues to heat up as Japan has formalised its plans to pursue a next-generation air superiority-focused fighter aircraft capable of supplementing the capabilities of its growing fleet of F-35A and B aircraft.
This next stage has been a long-term attempt by the Japanese government. While committing to the procurement of 147 F-35s, the Japanese government has remained focused on procuring a fifth-generation, air dominance fighter, with or without US help, to counter the growing challenges it faces in its direct region.
In response to these challenges, the Japanese MoD launched the the development of the X-2 Shinshin, a technology demonstrator that proved Japan's domestic aerospace industry could produce an indigenous stealth fighter design capable of competing with the world's best.
In order to support the development of a Japanese air superiority fighter, the Japanese government and Japanese Defense Ministry have kicked off the Future Fighter Development Office to begin operations in April 2020.
The planned Future Fighter Development Office was first mentioned in the 30 August budget request for FY2020. In the budget request, the Japanese Defense Ministry urged the Japanese government to approve the launch of a Japan-led aircraft development program that can play a crucial role in the development of the country’s next fighter aircraft.
It has been revealed that the JASDF and MoD will determine a preliminary partnership framework for the development of the F-X fighter aircraft. While details remain light, it is expected that the formal draft will be finalised by December 2020.
Additionally, it has been revealed that funding for the F-X development program will reach about JPY28 billion (US$256.5 million) in FY2020.
A total of JPY16.9 billion of this funding (60 per cent) will be spent on “F-X related research projects”, said the spokesperson, with the remaining JPY11.1 billion (40 per cent) allocated for “conceptual design in Japan-led development” activity.