Hobby Master HA2702 JASDF Mitsubishi F-2B Fighter - 21st Squadron, 4th Air Wing, Matsushima Air Base, Japan (1:72 Scale)
"Obsolete weapons do not deter."
- British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher
The F-2 is a fighter aircraft manufactured by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) and Lockheed Martin for the Japan Air Self-Defense Force, with a 60/40 split in manufacturing between Japan and the USA. Production started in 1996 and the first aircraft entered service in 2000. By 2008, the first 76 aircraft are expected to be in service, with a total of 94 airframes under contract.
Work started in 1980s under the FS-X program, and began in earnest with a memorandum of understanding between Japan and the United States. It would lead to a new fighter based on the General Dynamics (post 1993, Lockheed Martin) F-16 Fighting Falcon, and in particular the F-16 Agile Falcon proposal. Lockheed Martin and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries co-developed and co-produce the aircraft, the company is a major subcontractor to Mitsubishi, some of the early developmental work was actually under General Dynamics, who sold its aircraft division to LM in 1993. It is essentially an execution of the F-16 Agile Falcon proposal - a late-1980s plan for an enlarged F-16 which was passed over in the U.S. in favor of an all-new fighter program (Joint Strike Fighter). The F-2 used the wing design of the F-16 Agile Falcon, but much of the electronics were further updated to 1990s standards. The overall concept of the enlarged F-16 by General Dynamics was intended as a cheap counter to the then emerging threat of Su-27/MiG-29.
In October 1987, Japan selected the F-16 as the basis of its new secondary fighter, to replace the aging Mitsubishi F-1 and supplement its main air superiority fighter, the F-15J as well as the F-4EJ. Also during the 1980s, General Dynamics (who developed the F-16) had proposed its F-16 Agile Falcon to the USAF. While the US would pass over the design concept in favor of all-new types (F-22/JSF) and upgrades to its existing fleet, the enlarged F-16 would find a home in Japan.
The Japanese may eventually make up to 94, at a cost of roughly US $110 million each in 2004 dollars. Much of the F-16 technology used in the F-2 was the subject of some political debate in the U.S. and Japan in the early 1990s. The technology transfers were authorized however, and the project proceeded.
The F-2's maiden flight was on October 7th, 1995. Later that year, the Japanese government approved an order for 141 (but that was soon cut to 130), to enter service by 1999; structural problems resulted in service entry being delayed until 2000. Because of issues with cost-efficiency, orders for the aircraft were curtailed to 98 in 2004.
Pictured here is a 1:72 scale replica of a Japanese Air Self Defense Force Mitsubishi F-2B fighter that is assigned to the 21st Squadron, 4th Air Wing, based out of Matsushima Air Base, Japan.
Release Date: January 2010
Historical Account: "For the Defense" - The Japan Air Self-Defense Force, or JASDF, is the aviation branch of the Japan Self-Defense Forces responsible for the defense of Japanese airspace and other aerospace operations. The JASDF carries out combat air patrols around Japan, while also maintaining an extensive network of ground and air early warning radar systems. The branch also has an aerobatic team known as Blue Impulse and has recently been involved in providing air transport in several UN peacekeeping missions.
The JASDF has an estimated 45,000 personnel and 474 combat ready aircraft as of 2005. Front-line formations include twelve fighter squadrons, one reconnaissance squadron and five transport squadrons.