The Mitsubishi ATD-X is Japan’s first foray into the world of 5th generation fighter aviation, already dominated by the Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor and F-35 Lightning II. Though Japan had originally wanted to purchase the Raptor, which is widely regarded as the most advanced multirole fighter in existence, en masse, an export ban put in place by the US government prevented that from happening. So, in a bid to create an air superiority fighter that’ll function as the follow-on to their aging F-4 Phantom II and F-15 Eagles, Japan aims to use the ATD-X as a hybrid testing and evaluations airframe and technology demonstrator for their upcoming F-3 project. Today, Mitsubishi and the Japan Air Self Defense Force (JASDF) officially unveiled the ATD-X prototype to the Japanese public.
Dubbed the X-2, the blue, white and red paint scheme belies the aircraft’s purpose, which is to develop a highly agile and extremely deadly stealth fighter, able to take on and soundly defeat enemy aircraft (presumably of Chinese origin). A first glance of the X-2 reveals a merge of 4th and 5th generation-type architecture, and engines with thrust vectoring capabilities. The paddles on the rear of the engines are similar to those used with the Rockwell-MBB X-31, likely allowing for three-dimensional thrust vectoring as opposed to the two-dimensional vectoring used on the F-22. The X-2 is around 46 feet in length, in comparison to the F-35 which is 51 feet long, and the F-22 which is 62 feet long.
Mitsubishi expects to fly the X-2 after a high-speed taxiing test regimen, probably by mid-to-late February. According to Channel NewsAsia, Japan has spent around $332 million USD to develop the ATD-X and the X-2. Like the X-35, which served as the prototype for the F-35, you can probably expect the resultant of the ATD-X test program to look fairly similar to the aircraft in the pictures, except possibly larger, darker (due to the stealth coatings) and with larger and more powerful engines. Included in their goals for the F-3 are internal weapons carriage (maximizing the aircraft’s stealth abilities), and the “Self Repairing Flight Control Capability”, which allows computers to detect anomalies or failures in the aircraft in-flight, and correct them automatically, using the engine and other remaining control surfaces to keep the aircraft stable. Japan expects to procure the F-35A Lightning II (conventional takeoff/landing), which will function in a tandem role to the F-3, while either extending the life of their F-2 Viper Zeros, or retiring them and procuring a larger number of F-3s to make up for the loss.
More images of the X-2 are available: HERE.