Japan plans to allocate around yen (Y) 7.9 billion ($103 million) in the current fiscal year for research linked to the Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) ATD-X experimental aircraft programme.

The contract will cover research to develop the aircraft as well as one flying airframe, said Japan's defence ministry, while adding that the Y7.9 billion figure "is yet to be determined."

The defence ministry also confirmed that the experimental aircraft will be powered by two Ishikawajima-Harima Heavy Industries XF5-1 engines. It also reiterated its target of 2014 for a first flight, which will be conducted by MHI. The manufacturer will hand the aircraft to the ministry's Technical Research and Development Institute in the fiscal year ending 31 March 2017.

"The airframe will be designed and manufactured for the purpose of making the flight test on the high-manoeuvrability and stealth technologies, which are the aim of this research project," the defence ministry said.

In keeping with the project's experimental nature, the aircraft will have no advanced sensors or weapons. "The aircraft will not be a fighter plane but an experimental one intended for flight tests."

However, the findings and experience from the ATD-X programme could be used in the future to develop an indigenous stealth aircraft for the Japan Air Self-Defence Force.

Separately, bids for Japan's F-X fighter requirement are due this month. Aircraft in the running include the Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, Eurofighter Typhoon and the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II.

Source: Flight International