Japan’s first stealth fighter jet has successfully taken to the skies as the country joins a select group of world military powers wielding the radar-dodging technology.
The X-2 jet took off from Nagoya airport in central Japan on its maiden test flight as dozens of aviation enthusiasts watching the event erupted in applause as it lifted off.
The single-pilot prototype safely landed at Gifu air base, north of Nagoya airport, after a 25-minute flight with ‘no particular problems,’ said an official at the defence ministry’s acquisition agency.
The red and white aircraft was escorted by two Japanese military fighters collecting flight data.
Despite strict constitutional constraints on the use of military force imposed after World War II, Japan has become one of the world’s most advanced defense forces.
And the development of the stealth fighter comes as it faces new security challenges in the form of China’s expanding force posture.
The inaugural flight, which followed extensive ground tests, had been postponed due to bad weather and malfunctions of parts used in its escape system.
‘The first flight has a very significant meaning that can secure technologies needed for future fighter development,’ Defence Minister Gen Nakatani told reporters.
‘We can also expect it can be applied to other fields and technological innovation in the entire aviation industry,’ Nakatani added.
The X-2, developed by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and 200 other firms, measures 14.2 metres (47 feet) long and 9.1 metres wide and was built as a successor to F-2 fighter jets developed jointly with the United States.
Its delivery to the defence ministry is expected as early as next month and the acquisition agency ‘will continue analysing data and check its stealth technology capability,’ the agency official told AFP.
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