The importance of Mitsubishi ATD-X ShinShin to Japan

Mitsubishi ATD-X ShinShin developed by Japanese Ministry of Defense Technical Research & Development Institute is a first of its kind jet fighter laced up with cutting-edge stealth technology. This fighter plane is being developed as a domestically produced 5th gen fighter to substitute Japan’s fleet of some 49 Mitsubishi F-2 & 135 Mitsubishi F-15 fighter jets later in the decade.

It would be a substitute to, or would complement, the proposed acquisition of Lockheed Martin’s F-35 stealth fighters. ATD-X stands for ‘Advance Technology Demonstrator- X’ and the name ShinShin means the ‘heart’ or the ‘spirit’. The flight of this fighter is scheduled for this current year.

When Japan identified that the F-22 wasn’t going to be exported from the U.S. congress had debarred the exporting of these fighters due to safeguard secrets of its technology. This abandonment led Japan to build its own modern fighter fully equipped with stealth and other enhanced technologies.

With a wind tunnel model being tested in 2005 in France, Mitsubishi ATD-X ShinShin made an appearance in Japan’s next in-house fighter plane project. In 2009, the nation realized that F-22 was not going to be exported; and so the development of ShinShin got accelerated. Later on, it was projected that the ATD-X program will lead to an F-3 fighter production by 2027. Reports also indicated a “strike variant” of the ShinShin is also being planned which possibly will replace the Mitsubishi F-2, but nothing has been said or been confirmed by either the Japanese MoD or the JASDF.

Mitsubishi ATD-X ShinShin_Under contruction

The Mitsubishi ATD-X Shinshin will be utilized as a technology demonstrator & research prototype to decide whether in-house advanced technologies for a 5th generation fighter aircraft are doable, & is a 1/3 size model of a promising full-production aircraft.

Shinshin ATD-X will feature innumerable advanced technologies, including a fly-by-optics flight control system, 3-D thrust-vectoring capability, electronic countermeasures, active electronically scanned array radar, and possibly microwave weapon and directed-energy weapons functions in the future. Another feature that is also will be included is the drone controlling system in which it will command UAVs and UCAVs for a number of rules

Besides these features, a further feature called ‘Self Repairing Flight Control Capability’ has also been incorporated with it that will allow it to automatically detect failures in its flight control surfaces and using the remaining control surfaces, attune accordingly to maintain controlled flight.
Mitsubishi ATD-X ShinShin_Engine
The ShinShin will not be installed to units, but is an aircraft that will corroborate both the stealth technology not to be picked up on any enemy radar. & the up-level kinetic performance that allows quick turns while moving around at low speed.

General Features:
•    Crew: 1
•    Wingspan: 9.099 meters (29.85 feet)
•    Length: 14.174 meters (46.50 feet)
•    Height: 4.514 meters (14.80 feet)
•    Dry thrust: 10 tonnes (22,046 pounds) each
•    Powerplant: 2 × IHI XF5-1 turbofans
•    Max. takeoff weight: 13 tonnes (28,659 pounds)
•    Thrust with afterburner: 15 tonnes (33,069 pounds) each
•    Maximum speed: Mach 2+

Japan being a technically advanced nation hopes that its own in-house stealth aircraft would mean that the nation won’t have to count on its foreign allies for hi-tech military technology. The home grown stealth technology would also likely to help the nation improve its radar system to its counter regional rivals like China & Russia that are thought to be building their own stealth aircraft. Also Japanese air force would have a hi-tech replacement to its aging fleet of F-4s and F-15s planes. This will help it build and strengthen its air defense.But there are still challenges as its development is expected to skyrocket over the next decade.

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About Udaynti Patel

Passionate blogger. Has been in love with aviation and defense sector since childhood.
  • harsh

    When would india have a 5th gen. stealth fighter planes

    • mzungu

      Way after they have their 4th. 😀

  • M&S


    ATD-X is ‘1/3rd scale’.

    47ft / .66 = 71ft long airframe.

    30ft/ .66 = 45ft span

    29,000lb MTOGW / .66 = Max Takeoff Gross Weight of 44,000lbs

    We’re talking about a production version larger than an F-22 (nearly the size of an F-111) but weighing only as much as an F-15A.


    Beyond the obvious weight disparities (it’s twin XF5 engines providing 1:1 thrust to weight ration /in military power/, _at takeoff_…), airframes don’t tend to scale very well.

    The high energy TVC paddles, while they look really cool on an X-31 platform which has surprisingly similar 43X23ft dimensions and a loaded mass of 16,100lbs at takeoff (only 4,000lbs of fuel, less than an F-5E…), doesn’t function well on a supersonic cruise platform because they don’t provide the condi pressure recovery efficiencies to produce the requisite thrust, nor the signature levels to remain stealthy at all aspects. AVENs, as an alternative, will not provide enough deflection authority to make routine PSTM a fight winner.

    Conversely, an F-15A, which nominally has the F-5E beat across the board for turn performance, climb rate and certainly thrust to weight ratio, is in fact a total pig when it comes to a rolling scissors, simply because all that lifting area necessary to throw 44-48,000lbs of airframe around the sky requires HUGE wings and tails and the mass of these makes the jet wallow on inertial loadings and drag, no matter how much rudder you boot in to kick it’s nose across. Aside from structural issues (G-Rake! G-Rake!) the same problem would apply to a full size F-3 which tried to do any of the fancy PSTM (Herbst, J-Turns etc.) that it is shown achieving in demonstration videos.

    The weight and drag of surfaces necessary to keep it flying, conventionally, would not go away in an F-111 sized, Eagle weight, jet.

    You move axial thrust off the centerline and your energy loading goes to hell. You push those wings around, flat plated to the sky, with half your installed thrust going into alpha pointing or yaw rotation and you’re going to have drag to match. Not to mention the stiffening issues of the airframe.

    Small jets do not make good area interceptors (See: MiG-21) and big interceptors seldom make good dogfighters (MiG-31).

    And that’s not even talking about the VLO engineering which adds another 5-7,000lbs of airframe specific systems requirements (of which I see little) not needed on normal jets.

    What I see here is the potential for a decent T-X airframe as a lightweight ASA/CONUS defender and ACM training jet. The inference possibly being that the cost-conscious Japanese are creating a potential win:win trade as ‘technology demonstrator’ with excellent agility and reasonable performance (Twin F404 or F125 or singe F414 in a 21,000lb airframe = similar T/Wr with 8,000lbs of fuel…) in an airframe smaller than the F-16.

    With the F-22 out of the picture due to line closure, the JASDF badly want to be onboard the follow-on NGAD/F/A-XX and a trade to gain some ‘executive design privilege’ by bringing an engine and a trainer aircraft which they -can- build (for the T-38 replacement effort and the NGAD, respectively) would make them useful partners instead of just observers.

    If nothing else the XF5 engine allows them to lower the cost of acquiring the airframe by roughly 7-10 million, X2, as the engines are the most expensive individual subsystems on the jet.

    • Joe Schmoe

      Wasn’t the YF-23 the same size as what they want the F-3 to be?

      Do you think the J-20 and J-31 share the same flaw?

      • M&S

        The YF-23 design baseline presumes active supercruise rather than ‘fast off the blocks, sprint between pumps’ like the F-22. The YF-23 would not work in a world with QWIP based super-IRST and would need a weapon like the boost-slide AAAM (AIM-152/155) which it’s own sustained SSC values could boost significantly while retaining the cheap costs of an all-rocket propulsion on the weapon (because a lot of those costs are going to have to go into dual-spectrum MEMS/IIR seekers).
        Ironically, the YF-23, though it did not do any launches, was the ONE platform which did high-Q, high-Mach, instrumented bay openings to support this and it is the only jet which had a ‘plank’ which could move down to seal the weapons bay as/after the doors came open.
        My worry here is that you need SSC to achieve radius in a reasonable period but you need _loiter_ (much better TSFC) to get targeting for this. Targeting in a future dominated by 1MW ground and 300KW airborne lasers is going to be a coin flip of ground track vs. threat mobility in a network ADGE which is cued by acoustics and range tracking camera installations at perhaps 1/4 the cost of modern radar (remember, ZTOF = no tracking lag requirement for range-rate prediction). Add to this hunting weapons like a super ADM-160 and you have a recipe for disaster for expensive platforms in threat airspace.
        The J-20 has canards in the forward hemisphere. Unless they have gone to active LO (i.e. an electrical surface conduit system which nullifies travelling waves before they hit corner junctions) that, by itself, is a deal breaker, rendering the J-20 just a testbed for things like the WS-10/15 and whatever they have stolen from the F-35 program in the way of DAS/EOTS/MIRFS etc.. The fact that the engines are essentially AL-27 clones (very long for the thrust class) makes it impossible to see this as even a standoff striker because the weapons bays are too short/narrow.
        The J-31 is crippled by scaling values. It has two engines which means it has to have -at least- F-15C level fuel fractions (13,700lbs over 50,000lbs) if not F/A-18E equivalents (14,400lbs over 44,000lbs), just to be effective in a point defense and short range strike (i.e. Pakistan) role. Stealth simply adds too much weight penalty for a Hornet airframe lift quotient to be acceptable. This is why the jet turns and accelerates like a pig on roller blades at airshows.
        If you want to take the next step in aeronautical design, you have to do one of two things:
        1. Shift to a much higher energy fuel. At least 20-25% (Hydrogen) or 15% (Methane). This will bring it’s own (cooling and systems) penalties.
        2. Start pulling systems weight and look to things like lasers and formation tactics to kill the overwhelming advantage of BVR missiles. The first and most useful of weight savers is going to be the pilot. No 9G ‘save me from my own stupidity!’ dogfighting structure and no 3,000lb extension of the primary turbine in a burner tube, coupled to another 3-5,000lbs of environmentals weight (cockpit, canopy, etc.) is a massive boost to both performance (speed AND loiter) and cost (crunch all you like, we’ll theater-transfer more). Bluntly, we need to anticipate at least a 50% attrition rate per D1R1 mission.

        • Joe Schmoe

          What if IHI is able to finish the engine they are developing? It sounds like a slim F119 equivalent. Couldn’t this form factor be useful for future unmanned platforms?


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