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​JAPAN AEROSPACE: Scientists ready X-2 for flight test campaign

Japan’s Acquisition Technology & Logistics Agency (ATLA) is preparing the Mitsubishi Heavy Industries X-2 aircraft for its third flight.

The aircraft’s second flight saw the technology demonstrator make the one hour flight from Mitsubishi’s Nagoya factory to Gifu airbase in June, where ATLA took ownership of the aircraft.

Hirofumi Doi, programme manager of Japan’s Future Fighter effort, says that calibration and testing work with the aircraft are underway. He would not give a specific date for the third flight, but says the work now underway was planned previously, and that there are no issues with the jet.

When the aircraft’s 50 flight test campaign gets underway in earnest, he expects X-2 - formerly known as ATDX - to fly roughly every two weeks.

“Usually, when you fly experimental aircraft, the gap between flights is two weeks,” he says.

The team in Gifu comprises ten staff, including military test pilots. Representatives from Japanese industry will also be on-hand.

Early tests will look at flutter, flight loads, and stealth. Stealth tests, says Doi, are relatively easy to conduct because the aircraft need only fly straight and level.

Powered by two IHI XF5-1 low-bypass engines equipped with afterburners, the aircraft is small by fighter standards, with a length of 14.2m (46.5ft) and a wingspan of 9.1m.

The X-2 is a key component of a larger effort Japan has made since the 1990s to explore technologies necessary for stealthy fifth- or sixth-generation aircraft. The effort comprises 15 separate programmes, of which the X-2 itself is the most significant. These are investigating specific technologies such as weapons bays, sensors, data links, and other areas deemed necessary for advanced fighter aircraft.

Doi also touched on other ATLA initiatives, namely Japan’s possible F-3 fighter programme, which would replace the Mitsubishi F-2, and a concept to develop UAVs to work alongside conventional manned fighters.

An ATLA request for information regarding future fighter technologies received a good response from industry. The objective was to gain insight into the technologies and capabilities involved with a futuristic fighter.

“Right now we’re examining the RFI response,” says Doi. “We are considering another RFI with more detailed questions for next year.”

He says Tokyo is primarily focused on manned fighters, and that UAVs remain a more futuristic possibility.

“By the 2030s, we want UAVs that can support combat missions, carrying mainly sensors,” he says.

He says it’s a “step-by-step” process, and that work is necessary in how to team manned and unmanned assets.

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