Andrzej Jeziorski/TOKYO


Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) is considering the development of a dedicated air superiority version of its new F-2 support fighter.

According to Junichi Miyakawa, MHI military aircraft design section manager, the variant is being considered as a potential replacement for the Japan Air Self-Defence Force (JASDF) fleet of McDonnell Douglas F-4EJ Kai Phantom interceptors.

"The F-4 replacement will be in about 10 years, but the Japan Defence Agency [JDA] has not decided yet [on a replacement programme]. One option is a modification of the F-2-but we would have to enhance the air-to-air capability," says Miyakawa.

He says the proposed variant would require upgrades to the radar and avionics, to allow it to carry more air-to-air missiles. The F-2 is equipped with a Mitsubishi Electric active-array radar and a US/Japanese avionics suite.

The F-2A support fighter is intended to replace JASDF Mitsubishi F-1s, and possibly in its two-seat F-2B variant to replace the air force's T-2/2A trainers.

Miyakawa says the JASDF wants about 130 aircraft (83 F-2As and 47 F-2Bs), but the final number will depend on the defence budget. The delayed first delivery is set for August, with 19 aircraft to be handed over by the end of next March.

Deliveries have been delayed by structural cracking problems in the aircraft's wing, compounded by excessive loads at the fin root discovered during a negative 1g roll manoeuvre.

The aircraft is based on the Lockheed Martin F-16C airframe, but the all-composite wing is Japanese-designed and 25% bigger than the F-16's, offering five hardpoints under each side instead of the F-16's three.

Cracks were found close to the wing tips and around a fuel inlet in the starboard side. Miyakawa says the wing structure in the cracked areas has now been reinforced with metal plates, and flight testing is continuing.

Source: Flight International