Japan stalls future fighter demonstrator

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The Japan Defence Agency (JDA)has postponed plans to start work on a future fighter demonstrator next year, as it struggles to complete development flight testing of the new Mitsubishi F-2A/B support fighter by the end of 1999.

The JDA's Technical Research and Development Institute (TRDI) had wanted to start work next year on the twin-engined demonstrator, variously designated as FI-X or TD-X. The aircraft, which was intended to fly by 2007, will test stealth, flight control and thrust-vectoring engine technologies.

The 9m-long (29.5ft) demonstrator is seen as the possible basis for a future indigenously developed replacement for the Japan Air Self Defence Force's Mitsubishi-built McDonnell Douglas F-4J, and eventually its Boeing F-15EJs. The JDA had originally estimated the programme would cost some ´100 billion ($840 million).

The TRDI has been funding work on an 11,200lb-thrust (50kN) demonstrator engine by Ishikawajima-Harima Heavy Industries (IHI) since 1995. The first XF-7 powerplant was delivered in June for static testing at Tachikawa and planned altitude testing at TRDI's new Chitose site in 2001.

A further three engines will be built under a ´20 billion programme. The XF3-400, based on IHI's F3 engine developed for the Kawasaki T-4 trainer, will feature a thrust-vectoring nozzle, full authority digital electronic engine control and a new lightweight materials.