Saturday, April 14, 2012

The Airplane Geeks Aircraft of the Week: Mitsubshi F-2A/B VIPER ZERO

In 1984 General Dynamics proposed a advanced F-16, called the “Agile Falcon”   Agile Falcon included what eventually became he MSIP IV upgrades for the F-16 Fleet.  This included the ability to fire the AIM-9X colour displays, and uprated engines. 

The biggest change to the F-16 proposed by Agile Falcon would be a twenty five percent increase in its wing area.  This would allow for an additional hard point on each wing.   All of these improvements were two-fold, one it was to restore the performance of the F-16C/D variants to equal that of the A/B and secondly was to provide a lower cost alternative to the then proposed Joint Strike Fighter (JSF)

While this proposal was going on Japan began its FS-X program to replace its indigenous fighters.  The Mitsubishi F-1 and T-2, were a home grown derivative of the SEPCAT Jaguar. Japan’s primary defense fighters at the time were the F-4EJ and the F-15J, the F-1s were a secondary fighter, used in training and Anti-shipping.

In October of 1987 the JSDAF selected the F-16 as a replacement for the F-1/T-2 family.  The F-16 AGILE Falcon would be the basis of the new indigenous fighter.

The F-2 as the FS-X would eventually be called would be a 60/40 manufacturing split between Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and Lockheed/Martin.  With various other Japanese and US contractors.   The power plant contract was awarded to General Electric, for their F-110-GE-129 Turbofan. 

The F-2’s empty weight is 21,000 lbs compared to an F-16C that is 18,000 lbs.  The increased weight is due to the twenty-five percent increase in wing area, which also included an enlargement of the horizontal tail planes. However it was substantially less than the Agile Falcon wing, due to the use of composites.  It also provided the added benefit of a lower radar cross section.  All of these technologies have been used on later block F-16s

While retaining the shape of the F-16, the F-2 has a wider nose area.  This is to accommodate the Mitsubishi Electric Corporation J/APG-1 AESA (Active Electronically Scanned Array) Radar. Japan continues to improve that radar system and expects to upgrade 60 F-2’s shortly. The F-2 has the “Big Mouth” intake to help the F-110.  A very unique feature of the F-2, came out due to the wider nose area, the F-2 has a three-piece canopy, where the traditional F-16 has two.

The F-2s first flight was on October 7, 1995.  The aircraft was ordered into production and the first aircraft entered service in 2000 after testing of the four original prototypes.

The primary mission of the F-2A is Self Defense Anti-Shipping.   It completes that mission  by delivering the ASM-1 and later the ASM-2 anti shipping  ALCM or  Air Launched Cruise Missile. The Type 80 ASM-1 has a range of 50 Kilometers carrying a 600 Kilogram high explosive warhead.  The missile is jet propelled and is over 12 feet long with a 5 foot wingspan.  This anti-shipping mission also explains the Viper Zeros very different Blue and Blue camouflage.

The F-2 Program has been expensive to Japan. Originally it was to be approximately 10 Million per unit, with the initial purchase being 141 aircraft.  In 2004 it was reduced to 94 aircraft at a cost of 110 million each.  Technologies swopped between the US and Japan have been quite successful. Mitsubishi delivered the Final F-2A to the JSDAF on September 27, 2011 thus ending production of the VIPER ZERO.

On Friday March 11th 2011 the world watched as the Tohoku Earthquake and Tsunami tore apart Japan.  Mastsushima Kitchi, which is seven feet above sea level, was flooded with seawater.  Of the 18 21st Squadron F-2B trainers,  12 were total write offs.  To Salvage the remaining six aircraft will be approximately 80 Billion Yen.  The necessity is that these were the two seat training versions of the aircraft.

The Viper Zero has a unique part of the F-16 history.   It is the epitome of the old saying  “it’s the same but different!”  Eventually it will be replaced by the Joint Strike Fighter in JSDAF service, ironically the aircraft it was supposed to be an alternative to .

Works Cited
"Earthquake Devastates Japan F-2 Sqd." - The DEW Line. Web. 14 Apr. 2012. <>.
"F-2 Attack Fighter, Japan." F-2 Attack Fighter. Web. 14 Apr. 2012. <>.
"Japan Making Its F-2 Fighter Fleet More Lethal." Defense Update. Web. 14 Apr. 2012. <>.
"Media Gallery." Photo Gallery. Web. 14 Apr. 2012. <>.
"Mitsubishi F-2." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 04 Dec. 2012. Web. 14 Apr. 2012. <>.
"Specifications." Type 80 ASM-1. Web. 14 Apr. 2012. <>.

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