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Japan seeks foreign engines for stealth fighter prototypes

By Leithen Francis

Japan is looking to use foreign engines for the prototype aircraft needed for its fifth-generation fighter programme.

The ATD-X Shinshin programme is still in the study stage, but industry sources in Japan and overseas say Tokyo has issued a document to engine-makers seeking information and pricing on powerplants needed for two prototype aircraft.

Responses are due to be submitted by 10 May.

Japan is interested in engines in the 10,000-20,000lb thrust class (44-89kN), and has a long-list of candidates on which it is seeking information, the sources say.

These include the General Electric F404 used to power the Boeing F/A-18 Hornet, Snecma's M88-2 for the Dassault Rafale and Volvo Aero's RM12, integrated with the Saab Gripen. Its search even contains the Gas Turbine Research Establishment GTX-35VS Kaveri, still in development for India's Aeronautical Development Agency Tejas light combat aircraft.[/b]

Japan had wanted to buy Lockheed Martin's F-22 to meet its future fighter requirement, but the US government has barred exports of the type and agreed to halt production for the US Air Force. Tokyo has responded by vowing to develop its own fifth-generation fighter under the ATD-X programme.

Local engine-maker Ishikawajima-Harima Heavy Industries (IHI) has been assigned to develop the XF5-1 engine for the ATD-X. The move to source foreign engines for the prototypes could be part of efforts to give IHI more time and ensure that the overall programme remains on track.

Japan is also expected this year to issue a request for proposals for new fighters under its F-X programme. Aircraft in the running will include the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, Eurofighter Typhoon, and Lockheed's F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.

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