Japan has selected Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) as the lead contractor for the country’s new fighter jet. The fighter, tentatively named F-X, will fly by 2028, with production scheduled for the 2030s.
The new fighter will replace the F-2, also built by Mitsubishi, and will incorporate American aerospace technology and know-how.
Mitsubishi built a number of famous World War II aircraft, including the A6M “Zero” naval fighter, but Japan stopped developing and producing warplanes after the war. The country, which for decades manufactured American fighters under license, has made no secret of its desire to reignite its fighter aircraft development.
Japan’s latest fighter, the F-2, is a derivative of the F-16 Fighting Falcon that Lockheed Martin developed in the 1990s.
The news comes as Japan faces an aging fighter jet problem. For decades, the country operated F-15J fighters, a locally built version of the F-15 Eagle, the outdated F-4J Phantom, and the F-2. Japan intended on buying Lockheed’s F-22 Raptor, but those plans were dashed by the imposition of an export ban on the high-tech fighter.
Japan has retired the F-4J, is upgrading and refurbishing half of the 200-strong F-15J fleet, and is purchasing 147 F-35A and -B fighters. The new fighter will replace what remains of an original order of 98 F-2s in the 2030s, five of which were damaged beyond repair during Japan’s 2011 earthquake and tsunami. The F-X will also likely replace a portion of the remaining F-15J fleet.
Read more: Popular Mechanics