According to the Japanese Defense Ministry, China has more than 1,000 fourth-generation supersonic fighters, about three times as many as Japan. It has also begun deploying fifth-generation stealth fighters. Therefore, Japan’s defense strategy will be based on one Japanese ace having to fly several unmanned wingmen.
The first unmanned fighters are scheduled to be delivered to the troops by 2035. At that time, a new generation of manned fighters, which are now beginning to be developed, will start arriving. That is, in 15 years the Japanese Air Force will undergo significant reforms. The first flight tests of a small prototype are expected in 2024, after which the necessary corrections will be made and the final terms of reference for the development of the final product will be formed.
Since the drone does not need a cockpit, it could be cheaper and easier to produce. Unfortunately for the Japanese, China is also intensively developing military drone systems. Therefore, it is very cautious to talk about achieving parity or superiority by the deadline.
Japanese companies have already been instructed to study the necessary technology. Subaru will be responsible for developing remote control and autonomous flight control capabilities, while Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and Mitsubishi Electric will work on an instant information exchange system between multiple aircraft. Who will handle machine learning and AI has not yet been specified.