The Japanese X-2 combat aircraft demonstrator made a successful first flight from Nagoya airfield on 22nd April. After a 20-minute flight, the plane landed at Gifu Air Base, according to Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI), which is responsible for designing and building the aircraft.
According to MHI, the aircraft performed basic manoeuvres including climbing, descent and circling operations. After completing the maiden flight, the pilot, from MHI, described the flight experience as "extremely stable." "Control of the aircraft went exactly as in our simulated training sessions," he said.
The X-2 has been in development since 2009 by the Japanese ministry of defence in cooperation with private contractors led by MHI and Ishikawajima Heavy Industries (IHI). The demonstrator is intended to evaluate Japan’s capacity to produce a fifth-generation air superiority fighter, the F-3, for entry into service around 2030. X-2 development costs are estimated at 41.5bn yen (€310m).
The airframe measures 14.2m in length with a wingspan of 9.1m and combines features of the F/A-18 and F-22. Maximum takeoff weight is estimated at around 13t. Major innovations include a carbon fibre airframe, fibre optic flight controls and a thrust vectoring system with three large computer-controlled “paddles” used to direct the engine exhaust flow. A variety of stealth shaping features are used to reduce the radar signature.
A decision on whether to go ahead with the full-scale F-3 programme is currently scheduled for 2018.