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Japan and U.S. collaborate on next-generation training aircraft


Tokio and Washington have embarked on joint research and development of the next generation of trainer aircraft, indicating that the two countries are steadily accelerating the trend toward military integration


According to recent Japanese media reports, Japan and the United States plan to cooperate in the development of a new training aircraft to replace the two countries' current main trainer models. This is also the first time Japan and the United States have cooperated on the training project.


China and Japan over the Diaoyu Islands (Senkaku Islands) conflict. Photo GettyImages

Currently, Japan and the United States have plans to develop training aircraft for the two countries. The Japan Air Self-Defence Force's T-4 intermediate trainer is a subsonic jet aircraft developed by Kawasaki Heavy Industries and has been Japan's main training aircraft since 1988.


While joint research and development with the U.K. and Italy has gradually led to the design of sixth-generation aircraft, as the U.S. F-35 fighter jets have entered service, the Japan Air Self-Defence Force has found that the T-4 intermediate trainer is unable to meet current and future pilot training needs, and must therefore equip itself with higher-performance supersonic trainer models.


Currently, the U.S. Air Force primarily uses the T-38 supersonic trainer, which features an aerodynamic fuselage and rocket ejection seats. From 1961 to 1972, the U.S. military received a total of 1,187 T-38 trainers. The very long service makes the safety problems of the T-38 trainer increasingly apparent, and accidents and malfunctions have been frequent in recent years.


In 2013, the U.S. Air Force launched the T-X next-generation advanced trainer project.

In 2018, the U.S. company Boeing and the Swedish group Saab jointly developed the model, winning the tender.


In 2019, the U.S. Air Force formally announced that the new trainer aircraft official number for the T-7 " Red Eagle", the first to be installed is the basic model T-7A, based on which other upgraded models will be developed in the future.


Japan and the United States, therefore, urgently need to replace the current trainer, and the T-7 project has become one of the priority programs.


According to Japanese media reports, Japan and the United States have initiated joint research and development of the next generation of trainer aircraft, reflecting the fact that the two countries are steadily accelerating the trend toward military integration.


On the one hand, Japan and the United States hope to reduce costs and accelerate the speed of production through cooperation.


At present, research and development of the T-7 project has been halved, the prototype has achieved its first flight, but the ejection seat and related flight control software still have many problems, so much so that the U.S. Department of Defense's assessment of the time for initial combat capability training may be delayed until 2027.


To date, Boeing has spent more than $1.1 billion on the development of the T-7 program.

At this time, Japan joins the projectto bring financial investment and this could to some extent delay the problem of R&D funds , and provide technical support to accelerate the speed of the type of trainer installed.


It promotes greater integration of Japan and the United States in future operations.

A training aircraft is a growth platform for pilots, and the use of the same training aircraft means that Japan Air Self-Defence Force pilots will adopt the same training procedures and flight courses as U.S. Air Force pilots from the beginning of their training, and a higher degree of synergistic cooperation between the two countries' pilots can be realized in joint combat operations in the future.


In recent years, Japan and the United States have strengthened military cooperation to improve the alliance's combat capability. It has been reported that the U.S. will further update the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty, reorganize the U.S. Forces in Japan Command, and give the U.S. Forces in Japan greater operational command authority to strengthen the integrated operational synergy between the U.S. Forces in Japan and the Japanese Self-Defense Forces.


This joint R&D between Japan and the United States in the field of training aircraft is only the beginning of a joint course, and the future may involve more R&D cooperation in the field of weapons and equipment.


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