The Mitsubishi F-2 is a multirole fighter
derived from the General Dynamics F-16 Fighting Falcon
The F-2 is nicknamed “Viper Zero”, a reference to the F-16‘s nickname of “Viper” and the Mitsubishi A6M Zero.
Production started in 1996 and the first aircraft entered service in 2000.
The first 76 aircraft entered service by 2008, with a total of 98 airframes produced.
Larger wings give an aircraft better payload and maneuverability in proportion to its thrust, but also add weight in various ways.
More weight can have negative effects on acceleration, climbing, payload, and range.
To make the larger wings lighter the skin, spars, ribs, and cap of the wings were made from graphite-epoxy composite and co-cured in an autoclave.
Japan’s initial intentions to develop the aircraft domestically built upon Japan’s like the F-15J, produced under license from McDonnell Douglas.
Japanese defense contractors argued that they needed to build a new aircraft from the beginning.
This decision was made in order to improve the skill of their engineers and, in turn, develop the Japanese aircraft industry.
The F-2 used the wing design of the legacy F-16 Agile Falcon, but much of the electronics were further updated to modern standards, implemented by Mitsubishi Electric.
BTW, the Viper Zero is equipped with a General Electric F110-GE-129 turbofan engine. This engine develops 131.7kN and the speed of the aircraft is Mach 2.
The F-2’s maiden flight was on 7 October 1995. 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 (including four prototypes) in 2004.
Flight testing of the four prototypes were conducted by the Japan Defense Agency at Gifu Air Field.
The F-2 program was controversial, because the unit cost, which includes development costs, is roughly four times that of a Block 50/52 F-16, which does not include development costs. Inclusion of development costs distorts the incremental unit cost (this happens with most modern military aircraft), though even at the planned procurement levels,
the price per aircraft was somewhat high. The initial plan of 141 F-2s would have reduced the unit cost by up to US$10 million per unit, not including reduced cost from mass production. As of 2008, 94 aircraft were planned.
Photos By: Kouichi Kouzaki & Naoki Matsueda