Meet Japan’s New X-2 Stealth Jet Prototype

They call it “Spirit of the Heart.”

Japanese Stealth Plane
AP Photo/Emily Wang

Japan’s Defense Ministry has given the world a clear look at Japan’s upcoming stealth fighter, the X-2, at a heavily-guarded Mitsubishi Heavy Industries hangar. Years after the United States spurned the country and its quest to purchase a vast sum of F-22 Raptors, Japan has turned around and produced its own domestic jet whose new, steerable engines might just foretell the future of air forces worldwide. The prototype, known as “Shinshin” (read: “Spirit of the Heart”), has compact twin low-bypass turbofans, able to provide a combined ten tons of thrust and maintain supersonic speed without afterburners. It is expected to fly for the first time next month

Of most interest is is the thrust-vectoring system. The X-2’s exhausts has three “paddles” that allow the plane to maneuver in incredibly intimate circles. Because each of the engines can be manipulated independently, the jet will theoretically be able to maintain flight angles at which other planes would stall. Such engineered maneuverability points to the fact that while the X-2 is nominally a stealth plane, Japan also sees a combat role for the plane; future armament is also reportedly under development.

That dual-personality hurts the jet’s chances of being the stealthiest on the market, because the large metal paddles that direct the thrust have a surface area large enough to catch most radars’ signal. Still, serrated edges, low-reflectivity panels and fuselage skin with an ever-changing radius should help mitigate chances of detection. Overall length is 46 feet, with a wingspan measuring 29 feet.

All this tech has cost Japan around $332 million in development costs, no small sum. Furthermore, a final production version is a ways off. In the meantime, Japan has ordered several American-made F-35As. We’ll be keeping an eye out for details on the X-2 as they emerge.