MITSUBISHI HAS delivered the first prototype, XF-2 single seat fighter, previously known as the FS-X, to the Japan Defence Agency (JDA), to begin a three-year programme of flight testing and evaluation.

The XF-2, handed over on 22 March at Mitsubishi's Komaki South plant, is the first of four flight-test aircraft due to be transferred to the JDA. A second prototype, first flown on 13 December, will be delivered in June, followed by two tandem-seat aircraft in August and October.

All four XF-2s will be based mainly at the Japan Air Self-Defence Force's (JASDF) Gifu AB and will participate in a flight test programme totalling 1,000 sorties. The lead prototype has so far completed 14 sorties since its first flight in early October. The second aircraft has been flown six times.

The JASDF Air Development Test Command, with the JDA's Technical Research and Development Institute (TRDI), is planning a four-phase test programme, extending to March 1999, for the Lockheed Martin F-16-based fighter.

Initial testing will focus on the XF-2's functionality and flying characteristics, configured clean and with air-to-air weaponry. Testing will continue in 1997 and 1998, with the aircraft carrying Mitsubishi ASM-2 anti-ship missiles and air-to-ground munitions. It will conclude with an evaluation of its support-fighter mission capability and possible flight-envelope expansion.

The first prototype will be used to calibrate performance and test handling, and vibration/flutter. The second XF-2 will be used for loads testing, along with Mitsubishi Electric's integrated electronic-warfare system. High angle- of-attack and initial weapon-delivery-system tests will be conducted on the third aircraft. The fourth fighter will be used for external-stores separation/jettison, navigation and fire control radar trials.

As well as the flight test aircraft, two static test XF-2 airframes have already been delivered to the TRDI at Tachikawa for 6,000h of fatigue and structural testing.

The Japanese and US Governments, in the meantime, are understood to be close to reaching an initial agreement on production work-share. According to local sources, it is anticipated that a memorandum of understanding (MoU) will be signed during US President Bill Clinton's visit to Japan in April.

The MoU is expected to reflect the earlier FS-X development work-share agreement, which gave US companies a 40% slice of the programme. The MoU will be followed by industry-level discussions between Japanese prime contractor Mitsubishi and Lockheed Martin on the airframe, and General Electric and Ishikawajima-Harima Heavy Industries on the F110-129 engine

Source: Flight International