Dark clouds are gathering over the plan for total domestic production of Japan’s next-generation fighter jet that is being jointly developed by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) and the Defense Ministry’s Technical Research and Development Institute.
This is a joint project to develop the successor of the F-2 fighter, jointly developed by MHI and Lockheed Martin, based on the F-16. The plan is to replace the F-2 in the 2030s with an eye on total domestic production. However, a senior Self-Defense Forces (SDF) officer reveals that MHI’s manpower and technology are “completely inadequate.”
The delay in the development of the MRJ, which will be the first passenger jet made in Japan, by MHI subsidiary Mitsubishi Aircraft Corporation (MAC) has also had a negative impact. MAC has put off the delivery of the first MRJ five times now and postponed mass production of this aircraft for two years, and the company has fallen into insolvency.
The above SDF officer points out that “the manpower and technology for the MRJ and the next fighter overlap, so any delay in the development of the MRJ immediately translates into a delay in developing the fighter.”
The left engine of a MRJ stopped during a test flight in the U.S. just last August. There is serious concern and anxiety in the Air SDF about whether a company that cannot even develop a passenger plane can develop a fighter, according to a former pilot.
The Defense Ministry plans to draw up a blueprint for the fighter’s development by the end of this year based on the assumption that it will produced domestically. Many Liberal Democratic Party members also have great expectations for the plan. However, it appears that the plan is running into difficulties from the start despite such expectations.