Japan cuts back funds for ATD-X steath demonstrator

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Japan's plans to build a stealth fighter demonstrator have been set back after funding for the project was cut in the fiscal year 2008 defence budget. The Mitsubishi ATD-X project has been allocated ¥7 billion ($66 million) of the ¥49.9 billion requested by the Technical Research and Development Institute (TRDI).

The plan to build and fly a small stealth demonstrator was approved in 2007 after the USA made it clear it would not release the Lockheed Martin F-22 for export to Japan to meet its F-X fighter requirement. FY2008 funding will allow design and technology work to continue, but construction of the demonstrator has been postponed.

Similar in size to the Saab Gripen, the ATD-X will be powered by a pair of IHI XF5 afterburning, thrust-vectoring engines derived from the XF7 turbofan powering Japan's Kawasaki XP-1 maritime patrol aircraft, now in flight testing.

Japan's FY2008 defence budget cuts funding for aviation-related projects by 2% to ¥215 billion, and includes the purchase of just 26 aircraft - 17 for the navy, six for the army and only three for the air force.

The navy gets the first four P-1 patrol aircraft and three Kawaski/AgustaWestland MCH-101 mine-countermeasures helicopters, but a single ShinMaywa US-2 search-and-rescue amphibian and two Mitsubishi/Sikorsky SH-60K helicopters have been cut.

The army gets two Kawaski OH-1 scout helicopters, but funding for a single Fuji/Boeing AH-64D attack helicopter was cut. Funds are provided for the first TH-X training helicopter, but a choice between the AgustaWestland AW109 and Eurocopter EC135 - expected at the end of 2008 - has not been made.