Japan's 6th-gen 'Godzilla' fighter to get homegrown missiles

According to Japanese news sources, its up-and-coming 6th-generation fighter would do well to have its own Japanese-made air-to-air missile.
Christopher McFadden
The new missile will be made domestically.

Brad Covington/Flickr and Japanese Ministry of Defense/Wikiwand 

Kyodo News reports that the much anticipated Japanese 6th-generation fighter, unofficially called "Godzilla," might be getting its domestic air-to-air missile. Jointly in development by Japan, Italy, and the United Kingdom, it is believed by the designers that a homegrown missile would be best for the first batch of fighters in around 2035.

Keeping options open

According to a source "familiar with the matter," a study conducted by Japan and Britain about the 6th-gen fighter for Japan's Air Self-Defense Force (ASDF) found that an air-to-air missile developed in Japan would provide superior performance at a lower cost compared to the European-made air-to-air "Meteor" missile. In the future, however, the source added that Japan may consider equipping its new fighters with missiles used by British and Italian warplanes to improve their capabilities.

First brought to public attention back in December 2020, Japan's new fighter was officially launched in December of 2022. Officially designated the F-X or F-3 aircraft, it has been deemed necessary to keep up with and surpass the air capabilities of neighboring countries, particularly China and Russia. This will be the first defense program the island nation has embarked on without the United States.

The program aims to equip the new fighter with interoperability functions that facilitate joint operations with allied forces, particularly in emergencies. It is also expected to be able to share data with friendly US aircraft, such as F-22s and F-35s, making operations safer and more streamlined for allied assets. The aircraft's body and engine design are currently in progress. Also, according to the source, talks are being held to establish an oversight body that will implement decisions made by their defense authorities to streamline the development process.

The new missile is in keeping with the general theme of the program as it plans, as far as possible, to outsource components such as infrared sensors, lightweight airframes, and information systems to its supply chain, with the hope of working with domestic companies. While outside technical assistance will be utilized, Tokyo aims to develop and improve its domestic industrial abilities. It is also a growing trend of nations beyond the expected, looking to bring certain aspects of their defense industries into the domestic space like India.

According to the Japanese Defense Ministry, Kyoto News reports, Japan intends to replace around 90 aging F-2 fighters of the ASDF that will start retiring in 2035 with the new fighter jets. Additionally, a total of 240 Eurofighter jets in Britain and Italy are also scheduled to be replaced.

"Meteor" is still an option

However, as mentioned earlier, there may still be room for imported weapons systems. For example, the "Meteor" missile (developed by six European states, including Britain and Italy, used on Eurofighters and other aircraft) may also be considered for use in the two countries' new fighter jets. Considering the nature of the design team, this would probably be a good "backup" alternative to a Japanese-made air-to-air missile.

Regarding installing electronic devices on the new fighter jets, the Japanese Kawazaki ASDF C-2 transport plane is set to undergo modifications for flight testing. There will also be a focus on advancing artificial intelligence research to develop drones to aid in fighter jet operations.

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