Japan's first stealth fighter jet X2, formerly known as ATD-X, made its maiden flight on Friday (April 22) morning, part of its efforts to bolster air superiority over China.
The jet took off from Nagoya Airfield in Aichi prefecture and was expected to land at the Japanese Self Defence Force's Gifu Air Field.
China's development of modern and stealthy fighter jets, combined with Japan's more muscular security agenda under Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, has been fuelling Tokyo's push for a new fighter.
The move also comes amidst Japan's hopes to upgrade a large portion of its 150 ageing Japan Air Self Defence Force F-15Js, according to sources.
As tensions between China and the United States and its allies rise in areas such as the East China Sea and South China Sea, Tokyo wants to ensure it can defend the airspace over Japan and its territories.
Japan initially tried to buy U.S. F-22 stealth fighters to avoid manufacturing its own aircraft, but after numerous discussions, Washington refused to sell.
The X2 jet is being developed by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) and the Japanese Ministry of Defence's Technical Research and Development Institute.
The stealth fighter technologies being tested on the X2 will be incorporated into another new fighter jet, dubbed the F-3 currently in the works, industry and government sources told Reuters.