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Thursday, April 3, 2014

Mitsubishi F2 Fighter Jet

This beautiful bird is Japan's Mitsubishi F-2 fighter, that was co-manufactured by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and Lockheed Martin specifically for the Japan Air Self-Defense Force.

Roughly 60 per cent of the planes are built in Japan, with the remainder built in the U.S.  The production for the F-2 began in 1996, with the actually F-2 entering service in 2000.

The contract calls for a total of 94 F-2 aircraft to be built, and we do know that as of 2008 there were 76 actually in service.

It seems strange that by the time those remaining 18 F-2's made it into service - let's say by 2010 - that the first plane will already have been in service for 10 years - which is a life-time as far as advanced technology goes...

Initially, these F-2 planes were designated as Support Fighters, but in 2005, the Japanese Ministry of Defense altered the classification to simply Fighter.

It is essentially an execution of the F-16 Agile Falcon proposal: a late-1980s plan for an enlarged F-16 which was passed over by the U.S. in favor of an all-new fighter program (Joint Strike Fighter).

The Joint Strike Fighter, by the way, is a development and acquisition program intended to replace a wide range of existing fighter, strike, and ground attack aircraft for the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, The Netherlands and other allies. After a competition between the Boeing X-32 and the Lockheed Martin X-35, a final design was chosen based on the X-35. This is the F-35 Lightning II, which will replace various tactical aircraft, including the US F-16 (Fighting Falcon), A-10 (Thunderbolt II), F/A-18 (Hornet), AV-8B (US Harrier II) and British Harrier's GR7GR9, and the Canadian CF-18 (Hornet).

The F-2 used the wing design of the F-16 Agile Falcon - a proposed variant of the F-16 but with a 25 per cent larger wing. Electronics were updated to standards of the day, however.

In fact, back in October 1987, Japan selected the F-16 as the basis of its new secondary fighter, to replace the aging Mitsubishi F-1 and supplement its main air superiority fighter, the F-15J as well as the F-4EJ. The program involved technology transfer from the USA to Japan, and responsibility for cost sharing was split 60% by Japan and 40% by USA

Controversy over cost: even at the planned procurement levels, the price per aircraft was somewhat high. The initial plan of 141 F-2's would have reduced the unit cost by up to US$10 million per unit, not including reduced cost from mass production.

As well... there was also controversy regarding the amounts claimed to be paid to American side as various licensing fees, but people tend to forget that making use of the pre-existing technology was much cheaper than trying to develop it from scratch.

The F-2's maiden flight was on October 7, 1995. Later that year, the Japanese government approved an order for 141 of the planes (but that was soon cut to 130) to enter service by 1999.

Of course, structural problems resulted in service delays until 2000.

Again, because of issues with cost-efficiency, orders for the aircraft were cut to 98 (including four prototypes) in 2004.

Oops... I was wrong... the last F-2 delivered to Japan was on September 27, 2011. As expected, at that time Mitsubishi Heavy Industries confirmed that production of the F-2 would end and no more F-2 fighters will be produced by the manufacturer.

Companies involved in the manufacture of the F-2 include:
  • Lockheed Martin, who supply the aft fuselage, leading-edge slats, stores management system, a large portion of wing boxes (as part of two-way technology transfer agreements), and some other components. Avionics are also supplied by Lockheed Martin;
  • General Dynamics built the motor;
  • Kawasaki Heavy Industries, who constructed the midsection of the fuselage, as well as the doors to the main wheel and the engine;
  • Mitsubishi Heavy Industries built the forward fuselage and wings;
  • Japan Aviation Electric and Honeywell international, Inc. (formerly Allied Signal) jointly developed the digital fly-by-wire system;
  • Raytheon Company, NEC Corporation, Hazeltine Corporation (now part of BAE Systems Inc.) and Kokusai Electric supplied the communication systems and IFF interrogators (that's the identification, friend or for identification system).
  • Final assembly is done in Japan, by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries at its Komaki-South facility in Nagoya.
As with any military plane, there are variants of the F-2: XF-2A: Single-seat prototypes; XF-2B: Two-seat prototypes; F-2A: Single-seat fighter version; and F-2B: Two-seat training version.
But, because the F-2A is pretty much the standard version of the jet, let's look at its
Specifications: 
  • Crew: 1 (or 2 for the F-2B);  
  • Length: 15.52 m (50 ft 11 in) 
  • Wingspan: 11.13 m (36 ft 6 in) 
  • Height: 4.69 m (15 ft 5 in) 
  • Wing area: 34.84 m² (375 ft²)  
  • Empty weight: 9,527 kg (21,000 lb)  
  • Loaded weight: 14,970 kg (33,000 lb) 
  • Max. takeoff weight: 22,090 kg (48,700 lb) 
  • Powerplant: 1 × General Electric F110-GE-129 turbofan with a dry thrust of 76 kN (17,000 lbf) or thrust with an after burner of 120–125 kN (29,500 lbf)
And... because everyone loves speed, here are the specs for
Performance:
  • Maximum speed: Mach 2.0 (2,469.6 km/h, 1,333 kn)  
  • Range: 834 km on anti-ship mission (520 miles) 
  • Service ceiling: 18,000 m (59,000 ft)  
  • Wing loading: 430 kg/m² at weight of 15,000 kg (88 lb/ft²) 
  • Thrust/weight: 0.89 
A top speed of only Mach 2.0?!

In Canada, back in 1958, our AVRO Arrow CF-105 achieved a speed of 1.98 Mach... and it wasn't even at its upper speed limit. Don't get me started on this beautiful aircraft. You can get a taste of it HERE.It still makes me misty-eyed when I think of what Canada could have become if we stuck with the program. As such, a brain-drain left Canada in the late 1950s and hooked up with NASA and essentially these Canadians were instrumental in helping the US achieve its goal of putting a man on the moon by the end of the 1960s. Fug!

Armament:
  • Guns: 20 mm JM61A1 cannon, plus maximum weapon load of 8,085 kg 
  • AAMs (Air-to air missiles): AIM-9 Sidewinder, AIM-7 Sparrow, Mitsubishi AAM-3, Mitsubishi AAM-4 (from FY2010
  • air-to-ground weapons include: ASM-1 and ASM-2 anti-ship missiles, various free-fall bombs with GCS-1 IIR seeker heads, JDAM 
  • others: J/AAQ-2 FLIR  
Avionics:
  • Mitsubishi Electric Corporation's AESA (Active Electronically Scanned Array) radar system including J/APG-1

That Damn Eartquake
As a result of the March 11, 2011 earthquake and subsequent tsunami, 18 of the F-2B at the 21st Fighter Squadron at Matsushima Air Base were affected, with 12 actually having to be scrapped. The remaining six were fixed up costing on about ¥80 billion.In today's US dollars it was only about $782,922,836.53. That's an average of $130,487,139.42.

I'm laughing on the inside.

Cheers,
Andrew Joseph

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