Japan on Thursday unveiled its first stealth fighter jet, officials said, with the maiden test flight planned for next month.
The defense ministry's acquisition agency showed off the domestically developed, radar-dodging X-2 fighter at a regional airport near the central city of Komaki.
Its first flight is scheduled in mid-February before delivery to the defense ministry by the end of March next year, the acquisition agency said.
The X-2, developed by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, measures 14.2 meters (47 feet) long and 9.1 meters wide and was built as a successor to the F-2 fighter jets developed jointly with the United States.
Japan has reportedly spent about ¥39.4 billion ($332 million) to develop the aircraft.
In November Japan's first domestically produced passenger jet, also developed by Mitsubishi Heavy, made its maiden test flight, a landmark development for the country after being barred from developing aircraft following its defeat in World War II.
The X-2 unveiled Thursday is a scaled demonstration aircraft, rather than a prototype, Richard Aboulafia, an analyst with the Teal Group, told Defense News. The model is meant to show the Japanese can design and integrate a modern combat aircraft, but it won’t be available to the market for years, he said.
Presently, only the United States, Russia and China have been internationally recognized as having successfully developed and flown manned stealth jets, the agency said.
China showcased its own stealth fighter for the first time in November at the Dubai Air Show. The multi-role FC-31, built by the Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC), would be the first aircraft of its kind available to global customers who face US export restrictions or cannot afford Lockheed Martin's F-35 joint strike fighter. AVIC is "in negotiations" with the Chinese Air Force to buy the FC-31, which closely resembles the F-35, but currently has no other customers for the fighter jet.
Defense News reporter Lara Seligman contributed from Washington