Japan is set to develop its own next-generation stealth fighter jets to reduce its dependence on foreign technology and counter similar moves by China and Russia, a news report said yesterday.
Japan, which wants to replace its aging fighter fleet, has also made overtures to Washington on the possibility of purchasing the US F-22 Raptor stealth fighter.
However, the US Congress has repeatedly banned the sale of the plane to any foreign government, in an attempt to safeguard the country's advanced technology.
Japan's Defense Ministry now aims to test its own prototype stealth jet -- fitted with a domestic engine, advanced control system and radar-jamming device -- within five years, the Tokyo Shimbun newspaper reported, citing a budget plan submitted on Friday by the ministry.
A mock-up has already undergone preliminary ground tests in France, the report said.
Friday's decision by the ministry to push ahead with the multimillion-dollar project means that developers will start working toward flight tests, with production starting in about 10 years, it said.
Japan hopes that having its own domestic stealth fighter jet would mean it would not have to rely on foreign governments for key military technology, the report said.
Homegrown stealth capabilities would also likely help Japan enhance its radar systems to counter regional rivals China and Russia, which are thought to be developing their own stealth jets, the paper said.
An official on duty at the ministry yesterday said he was unaware of the project. He refused to give his name, citing policy.
Japan's air force has been searching for replacements for its aging fleet of F-4s and F-15s. Options include three US-made planes -- the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, the F-18 and advanced F-15s -- as well as the Eurofighter Typhoon.
But a purchase from Washington has been hindered by its export ban, imposed in part over reluctance to share sensitive military technology with foreign governments.