Everything We Know About Japan's Futuristic Next-Gen Fighter Jet

Japan's Air Force, or the Japanese Air Self-Defense Force (JASDF) has a hangar of formidable aircraft at its disposal. Its main fighter aircraft is the F-15J, an American F-15 Eagle that's been reworked by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries. The F-15J can reach speeds of up to Mach 2.5 (well over 1,800 miles per hour) and is equipped with a 20mm cannon and up to eight air-to-air missiles. In addition to the F-15J, Japan also ordered 147 Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II joint strike fighters. Those two fighters are backed up by the F-2, a jet based on the American F-16. That plane is set to retire in 2035.

As of now, the JASDF is full of decidedly American tech. In an effort to bolster its air power with a more inhouse design, the JASDF started work on the Mitsubishi F-X, a sixth generation fighter jet that, if all goes according to plan, would be one of the most technologically advanced planes in the air. The program has the blessing of the United States and is being built with the United Kingdom and Italy. 

Ready to fly in 2035

According to BAE Systems, one of the contractors on the project, the plane will be part of the Global Combat Air Program that will see three countries, Italy, the U.K., and Japan work together to develop a futuristic fighter jet tailored to each country's individual air defense needs. Mitsubishi Electric has signed on to provide the avionics, radar, and computer systems onboard the aircraft, while Mitsubishi Heavy Industries will handle a large majority of the craft for use in the JASDF. The next generation fighter will supposedly be ready to fly in 2035.

This will be the first time in several decades that the JASDF will use a non-American based aircraft to defend its skies. With countries like China, Russia, and North Korea just a stone's throw away, it seems prudent for the JASDF to start developing its own fighter jet.

As of now, the specific performance metrics of the plane are not yet known as it hasn't been built. But if the program results in a true sixth-generation fighter jet, that carries with it a wide set of implications. The current F-22 Raptor, one of the single most advanced fighter jets on the planet, is a fifth generation fighter. With a true sixth-generation jet at its disposal, the JASDF would be able to handily counteract most airborne threats.