I found this Japanese television feature package that gives a good overview of the country’s ATD-X programme, which aims to produce a technology demonstrator of a fifth generation stealth fighter.
Last week, I was in Tokyo and met with Japanese ministry of defence officials who are involved in the ATD-X programme.
I asked them why Japan is embarking on development of a fifth generation stealth fighter?
The answer I got was two-fold. One of the officials told me the ATD-X programme is a direct response to the USA’s refusal to allow Japan to purchase the F-22 Raptor. Another told me that Japan wants to develop fifth generation fighter technology so it can stay ahead of China.
Japan is very concerned about China’s growing fleet of advanced fighters such as the Sukhoi Su-30 and Sukhoi Su-27. China is also working on development of its own fifth generation fighter and there is the possibility that Russia’s PAK-FA fifth generation fighter, currently in development, could end up in Chinese hands one day.
Even though Japan is working on a technology demonstrator, it is unlikely to become a new aircraft programme due to the high costs involved. This is the impression I got in Japan and its also one of the points raised in this TV package.