Andrzej Jeziorski/SINGAPORE

The Japan Defence Agency (JDA) has stretched development work on the Mitsubishi F-2 until the end of next March because of continued problems with wing cracking on the support fighter.

The JDA says the development schedule has been reviewed, following the latest discovery of cracks by its Technical Research and Development Institute in June, and expects flight testing of the four XF-2A/B prototypes to continue until next March. Ground tests on the wing structure are expected to be finished by December, and the first three production aircraft should be delivered to the Japan Air Self-Defence Force in May next year.

The programme suffered a seven-month delay when wing cracking was first discovered in July last year. At that time, completion of development of the Lockheed Martin F-16 variant was delayed until the end of this July. The JDA insists that it is still sticking to its original schedule of delivering 19 F-2s by the end of fiscal year 2000.

The latest cracks were found on a wing which had been structurally reinforced as a result of problems encountered last year. Cracks were then found close to the aircraft's wingtip, and it was suffering excessive pylon flutter. The cracks discovered this year were found around the fuel inlet in the right hand wing.

Source: Flight International