Editor’s Note: Since its unveiling, Japan’s ATD-X aircraft has undertaken an ambitious test program. As you can see in the video, they’re at the point of doing high-speed texts–with both afterburners lit for a short period of time. It won’t be long before this aircraft conducts its first flight, probably within the coming days. That said, Japan has announced it is open to input from western defense contractors to ensure air superiority over it’s closest adversary–China.

Japan has opened talks with Western defense contractors about building a new generation of fighter jets, sources say, in what would mark an important milestone in Tokyo’s strategy to maintain its air superiority over rival China.

The discussions with defense companies including Boeing Co and Lockheed Martin Ltd come as Japan readies its ATD-X experimental aircraft for its first test flights within days.

Stealth fighter technologies being tested on the ATD-X, being developed by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) and the Japanese Ministry of Defence’s Technical Research and Development Institute, would also be incorporated into the new fighter, dubbed the F-3, industry and government sources said.

Japan: Open To Western Fighter Designs
Japan’s ATD-X X-2 conducts taxi tests in preparation for its first flight, believed to be coming within days. (Photo courtesy of forum.keypublishing.com)

“They have begun exploratory engagement to look at our capabilities,” said a source with a Western defense contractor. “There is no policy decision and no program of record for the next fighter. There is only some discussion that, logically, there will be a fighter at some point.”

Analysts estimate the cost of such a program at $40 billion or more, a price tag that could yet prove prohibitive.

Japan has already committed to buying 42 Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighters. But that aircraft’s perceived shortcomings in air-to-air combat and the United States’ refusal to sell its Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor have encouraged Japan to consider a domestic-led program to replace its fleet of 150 aging Boeing F-15J warplanes.

The original post in its entirety can be viewed at Reuters right here.

(Featured Photo courtesy of Reuters)