Japan to design stealth jet: report

TOKYO, July 24, 2007 (AFP) – Japan’s defence ministry hopes to make a prototype of a next-generation stealth plane, the first new fighter jet designed by the officially pacifist country in 30 years, a report said Tuesday. The design would not include installing weapons and it is unclear if Japan would actually produce the prototype due to the huge cost of building a full aircraft, it said. The ministry will include funds to develop the manned prototype in its budgetary request for the fiscal year from April 2008, the Yomiuri Shimbun daily cited anonymous defence ministry officials as saying.

Japan has been officially pacifist since its defeat in World War II but has one of the world’s largest defence budgets and has gradually been expanding its military role.

The defence ministry is hoping to keep its technology up to date and also gain an edge in negotiations with the United States when it selects new fighter jets, the best-selling newspaper said.

A defence ministry spokesman denied it had made the budgetary request but said it had not ruled it out either.

“But we have been studying stealth and other capabilities,” the spokesman said.

“We are also working on a plan to study small aircraft. We wil