It’s no secret that when Japanese President Shinzo Abe met with US President Donald Trump last week, one of the talking points was obtaining a stealth fighter that could parry anything the Chinese PLAAF or Russian Air Force could throw at it. Years ago, they had sought to obtain the F-22 Air Superiority Fighter but Congress nixed the deal, refusing to allow the F-22 to fly for anyone but the US Air Force.
With conceptual work already underway on a sixth generation fighter, however, and Lockheed-Martin’s desire to restart the F-22 assembly line, talk has surfaced that Japan wants — and may get — a 5th generation stealth fighter that combines the best attributes of both the F-22 and F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. Essentially, such a design, when combined with indigenous work already laid down by Japanese designers, could be fielded by the 2030s and remain a staple of the JASDF for the foreseeable future, at least until a sixth generation fighter could gain traction and financing in Japanese circles.
It’s anyone’s guess as to what a hybrid F-22/F-35 might look like, no doubt boasting a pair of high performance engines for long endurance flights while incorporating the latest in RAM coating for low observable maneuvering and advanced avionics to give it a “first look, first kill” capability, particularly important if they are faced with a more numerous adversary. Recently, the USAF created and released a video depicting what a US sixth generation fighter might look like as well as some of its capabilities, a far cry from what currently exists in their inventory. As work progresses on such an aircraft, both Congress and Lockheed-Martin are more inclined to aid the Japanese effort, while keeping the best technology still at home under the government’s scrutiny.