Japan is set to bolster its air defense capabilities with the development of a new fighter aircraft, known as the F-X or F-3, designed to counter emerging threats from neighboring countries. In a recent development, Japan is considering equipping this cutting-edge fighter with homegrown missiles.
The decision to explore domestic missile development stems from a joint study conducted by Japan and Britain, which highlighted the potential advantages of using Japanese-made air-to-air missiles over their European counterparts, such as the “Meteor” missile. These Japanese missiles are expected to offer superior performance while reducing costs, a crucial factor for Japan’s defense strategy.
The F-X program, officially launched in December 2022, is Japan’s ambitious endeavor to enhance its air capabilities independently, marking a significant departure from its historical reliance on the United States for defense programs. This initiative aims to surpass the air capabilities of neighboring nations, including China and Russia, and is vital for safeguarding Japan’s sovereignty.
One key aspect of the F-X program is interoperability. The new fighter will be equipped with features that enable seamless joint operations with allied forces, enhancing cooperation during emergencies. It will also have the ability to share critical data with friendly US aircraft, fostering safer and more efficient joint operations.
The program is currently focused on designing the aircraft’s body and engine, with plans to establish an oversight body to streamline decision-making processes. Japan is keen on outsourcing components like infrared sensors, lightweight airframes, and information systems to its domestic supply chain while aiming to develop and enhance its domestic industrial capabilities.
Japan’s Defense Ministry has signaled its intent to replace approximately 90 aging F-2 fighters in the Air Self-Defense Force, starting in 2035, with the new F-X jets. Additionally, 240 Eurofighter jets in Britain and Italy are slated for replacement. However, the possibility of incorporating imported weapons systems, such as the Meteor missile, remains open.
The development of the F-X program also extends to electronic devices and artificial intelligence. Modification of the Kawazaki ASDF C-2 transport plane for flight testing and advancements in artificial intelligence for drone integration are part of the broader strategy to bolster Japan’s air defense capabilities.
As Japan embarks on this ambitious defense program, it signifies the nation’s commitment to enhancing its self-reliance in matters of national security and underscores its determination to remain at the forefront of cutting-edge military technology. The Godzilla fighter and its potential homegrown missiles represent a formidable force in Japan’s efforts to secure its future in an evolving geopolitical landscape.