The nation of Japan is somewhat unique in terms of the world's militaries. Following its loss in World War II, the country was stripped of its ability to wage war, and its military was reestablished nearly a decade later not as an aggressive force but as a self-defense force. Today, the Japanese constitution forbids the country from maintaining anything but its Ground, Maritime, and Air Self-Defense Forces.
Since Prime Minister Shinzō Abe first took office in September 2006 and continuing in his second term, which began in late 2012, Japan's military has seen something of a renaissance. Earlier this year, the country's legislature officially approved a new law that allowed Japan to use its military in international conflicts, even if there's no direct threat to the Home Islands. And even earlier still, Japan announced a desire to increase its drone capability.
Now, like the US, Russia, and China, the country is preparing its own stealth fighter. Slated to take to the skies for its maiden flight in early 2016, the Advanced Technology Demonstrator X is a Mitsubishi-built plane that looks like the lovechild of an F-22 Raptor, an F-16 Falcon, and an F/A-18 Hornet. According to the attached video from Bloomberg, the ATD-X carries all the stealth fighter hallmarks. Its shape is designed to minimize its radar cross-section, while the body is coated in radar-absorbent material. And of course, the weapons systems are stored within underbelly bays. But why is Japan even testing it, especially when you consider the company placed an order for 42 F-35 Lightning IIs way back in 2011?
Well, for one, it's going to be a lot more affordable than the F-35, which is the single most expensive weapons platform in human history. Where individual F-35s cost around $100 million, depending on what source you're looking at, Bloomberg reports that the ATD-X could be developed for just $324 million. Even if there are some utterly absurd cost overruns and the per-unit cost is closer to astronomical than affordable, putting together a fleet of production ATD-X's is probably going to be cheaper overall.
You can hear more about why Japan is considering the ATD-X in the video down below. Check it out.