Japan looks at Eagle engine swap

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The Japan Air Self-Defence Force (JASDF) is considering an industry proposal to re-engine its Boeing/Mitsubishi F-15J/DJ Eagles with the General Electric F110-129 turbofan powerplant, as part of a planned forthcoming upgrade of the fighter.

Mitusbishi Heavy Industries (MHI) has been conducting initial design work for an F-15 upgrade since March, under a ´2.16 billion ($14.79 million) contract from the Japan Defence Agency. The JASDF is to decide shortly on the final package of enhancements for its fleet of 194 licence-built F-15s.

The JASDF is being offered the F110-129 as an alternative to further upgrading of the existing Pratt & Whitney F100-220E turbofan fitted to Japan's F-15s. The Ishikawajima-Harima Heavy Industries (IHI) licence-built F100 is the subject of an on-going digital engine electronic control retrofit, for about $3 million per engine.

The 29,000lb (129kN)-thrust F110, aside from providing improved performance, would offer future engine commonality between the F-15J and new Mitsubishi/Lockheed Martin F-2A/B due to enter service in early 2000. IHI has already signed an agreement with GE to build the F110-129 under licence for the F-2.

Installation of the F110 could potentially present a major design and manufacturing boost to MHI, given that Japan would be the first F-15 operator to commit to such a programme. The US Air Force has conducted a flight evaluation and qualification of two F110-powered F-15s, with the intent of offering a choice of engines to future customers, such as South Korea.

A major hurdle to overcome is finding the additional funding within an already stretched JDA budget for a new engine purchase. The JASDF is budgeting a total of ´40 billion to upgrade the F-15's Raytheon APG-63 radar and avionics systems by 2003, of which Y9.2 billion has already been approved for fiscal year 1998. The first modernised aircraft is due to fly in 2001.