Japan, UK, and Italy to produce next-gen fighter replacing aging F2

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TOKYO ($1=140.34 Japanese Yens) — Japan manufactures its own military products. The only country to date that cooperated with Japan was the United States. For the first time, the US will not be a country producing Japanese weapons. News that BulgarianMilitary.com reported back in July, and yesterday, November 18, the Japanese government confirmed.

Photo credit: Wikipedia

Now a fact, the Japanese government has made an official decision to cooperate in the joint development of a next-generation fighter with Britain and Italy. The new fighter jet will replace the Japanese Air Self-Defense Force’s [JASDF] aging F2. The news was confirmed by the Japanese online media Asahi. The Japanese media writes that the agreement will be signed by the end of this year. This is supposed to happen in December.

Merging programs

As BulgarianMilitary.com reported in July, a merger of two programs – the British Tempest and the Japanese FX – is possible. These two programs are specifically related to the development of next-generation fighters. Of note is the fact that Japanese companies continue to collaborate with their British counterparts on the design of the Tempest program. This will most likely make the merging of the two programs and the future conceptual design of the aircraft much easier.

On the Japanese side, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries will play a leading role, while on the British side it will be BAE Systems. Italy will also participate, through the local conglomerate Leonardo.

At this time, the roles of the three companies have not yet been determined. According to Asahi, a second Italian company will be involved in the project, perhaps as a subcontractor. This will be the company Avio. Asahi writes that the engines will now be entrusted to the work of the British Rolls-Royce and the Japanese IHI. Both firms will have a central role in the design.

The first agreement between Japan and the UK has already been reached. The two countries have determined future requirements for stealth technology, but Asahi did not provide details.

Asahi writes that 2035 is the deadline by which the new fighter will have to be operationally ready. The year is not a coincidence, as the Japanese army plans to begin the retirement of the F2 fighter just then.

Mitsubishi F2

The Mitsubishi F2 combat aircraft was developed based on the General Dynamics F-16 Fighting Falcon. It is a joint product between Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and Lockheed Martin. The fighter was first introduced at the beginning of the new millennium. It is no longer in production, having ceased production in 2011. Only Japan is the operator of this aircraft.

Photo credit: JASDF

Although visually similar to the F-16 Fighting Falcon, the F2 has quite a few differences from its “American brother”. For example, the wings of the F2 are 25% larger than those of the F-16. F2 has a longer and wider nose, larger tailplane, and larger air intake. Also, the F-2 is equipped with a drogue parachute.

The Three Principles

However, Japan is gradually abandoning its conservative policy regarding arms production and exports. Just a few days ago, BulgarianMilitary.com reported that major changes to this policy were being prepared.

The Japanese government intends to revise, renew and somewhat “liberate” the strict export bans in Japan’s operational guidelines for the “Three Principles of Defense Equipment Transfer.” This will give Japan great freedom to more quickly and easily export not only new weapons but also to donate obsolete ones. There was even talk of donations of anti-tank portable missile systems to Ukraine, as well as support for Asian partners. The revision of the “three principles” will take place in 2023.

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