The Japanese Air Self-Defense Force (JASDF) is the biggest foreign user of the F-15, and Japan is the only license-builder of the type. The F-15, the commanding fighter built for the US Air Force, was developed by McDonnell Douglas with its first flight in 1972. In Japan, it was introduced into the Air Self-Defense Force, and manufactured and licensed as the F-15J, with MHI as the primary contractor. Beginning in 1981, there have been a total of 223 units, including the F-15DJs, manufactured and delivered to the Air Self-Defense Force. The Mitsubishi F-15J/DJ Eagle is the principal air superiority fighter operated by the JASDF.
The F-15J is identical to the F-15C aside from some avionics changes. These differ from the F-15C/D with the deletion of sensitive ECM, radar warning, and nuclear delivery equipment. The AN/ALQ-135 is replaced by indigenous J/ALQ-8 and the AN/ALR-56 RHAWS is replaced by J/APR-4. The F-15C has provisions for FAST (Fuel And Sensor Tactical) packs on each side of the fuselage, each giving an additional 5,000 lb (2268 kg) of fuel. With FAST packs in place and three 600-US gal (2271-litre) tanks on pylons, the F-15C's gross weight is increased to 66,700 lb (30255 kg). This gives an endurance of over five hours, and an unrefuelled ferry range of 3,080 miles (4957 km).
The Japanese Air Self-Defence Force (JASDF) initially acquired 88 F-15s to replace four squadrons of F-104Js and operate alongside six squadrons of F-4EJs, the latter apparently being tasked with the less difficult targets. Deliveries began in July 1980. This "Peace Eagle" program includes 12 F-15DJ two-seaters, which, like the first two F-15J single-seaters, were built at St. Louis by McDonnell Douglas. The remaining 86 F-15Js were constructed by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries. The first F-15J was handed over in July 1981, and the first operational squadron was activated at Nyutabaru AB in late 1982.
There are some discrepancies in the total numbers, with some sources reporting a total of either 213 [165 F-15J and 48 F-15DJ] or 223 aircraft, while other sources would suggest 10 built from US parts, and another 199 built entirely in Japan, for a total of 209. By one account, Japan purchased and produced a total of 223 air-to-air F-15J, including 203 single-seat F-15Js and 20 tandem-seat F-15DJs. The first 12 F-15DJs were built by MDD, with the remaining eight assembled by Mitsubishi from knockdown kits provided by MDD. The first two F-15Js were delivered from MDD, the first flying at Saint Louis on 4 June 1980. All the other F-15Js were built by Mitsubishi.
The first two US-built F-15Js were followed by eight assembled in Japan from US-supplied CKD kits; the first flight of CKD F-15 was on 26 August 1981, delivered 11 December 1981. Mitsubishi states that, beginning in 1981, there had been a total of 199 units, including the F-15DJs, manufactured and delivered to the Air Self-Defense Force. The last F-15J was reported to have been delivered in 1998 and last F-15DJ on 10 December 1999. But as of March 2000 it was reliably reported that orders for 220 F-15s had been issued (180 single-seaters and 40 two-seaters), out of which 187 (150 F-15Js and 37 F-15DJs) had been delivered, with eight JASDF Eagles having been lost in accidents.
As of 2004 Janes reportd that JASDF operated about 160 F-15J and 45 F-15DJ. Prior to the July 2011 crash of a JASDF F-15, Japan operated a fleet of 154 F-15Js, as listed by Flightglobal's MiliCAS database. Japan also flies 45 F-15DJ trainers, according to MiliCAS.
The first JASDF unit was No. 202 Squadron (5th Air Wing), activated April 1982 at Nyutabaru; other units are Nos. 201 (April 1986) and 203 (April 1983) Squadrons (2nd Air Wing) at Chitose; Nos. 204 (April 1984) and 305 (July 1993) (7th Air Wing) at Hyakuri; No. 303 (April 1987) and No. 306 (April 1997) (6th Air Wing) at Komatsu; and No. 304 (April 1990) (8th Air Wing) at Tsuiki. Additionally, Aggressor Squadron at Nyutabaru received six F-15DJs in 1990.
As 0f 2003 a total of 10 F-15s had been lost due to mishaps, reducing the total inventory to 213 aircraft [SOURCE], for an attrition rate of roughly one every two years. On 20 October 1983 an F-15DJ crashed into the Pacific Ocean 110 miles E of Nyutabaru (RJFN), Japan. On 13 March 1987 an F-15J crashed into the sea 100 miles E of Hyakuri (RJAH), Japan. On 29 June 1988 a pair of F-15Js crashed into Sea of Japan, after collision with wingman F-15J. An F-15J was lost on 26 January 1990, and another on 2 July 1990. On 13 December 1991 an F-15DJ crashed during the approach of Komatsu AB (RJOP), Japan. On 27 October 1992 an F-15J crashed 45 miles NE of Tokyo, Japan into Pacific Ocean. On 6 October 1993 an F-15DJ crashed into the Sea of the coast of Northern Japan. On 6 October 1995 an F-15J was supposed to be burnt out after a failed take off of Komatsu AB (RJOP), Japan. On 22 November 1995 an F-15J crashed after Cpt. Higuchi Tatsumi was shot down by an AIM-9L sidewinder fired by another JASDF F-15 flown by Cpt. Hino Junya during air-to-air combat training, he called 'Safe' when firing for the 'Kill' Tatsumi ejected and was picked up safe.
The Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Mid-Life Upgrade study focused on improving the central computer and radar. The MLU also involved an upgrade of the J/ALQ-8 ECM system, additional ECM equipment and FLIR and IRST equipment. These modifications would give the F-15J a true fire-and-forget BVR AAM capability. The initiative was outlined in 2001 to give commonality to 100 F-15J/DJ. Flight testing began on 18 July 2003. It was initially planned to upgrade 20 examples per year, but only 12 were actually be complete by 2005, at which time the target was for four upgraded squadrons by 2010. The initial phase of the upgrade had enhanced ECM capability for the AN/APG-63U radar and new Lockheed Martin central computer. The second phase introduced Mitsubishi Integrated Electronic Warfare Systems (IEWS) based on the J/APQ-2 system developed for the Mitsubishi F-2. New weapons were also integrated.
Starting in FY91, F-15J’s F100-PW-100 engines were upgraded to -220E standard (part of JMSIP), with digital electronic engine control (DEEC) added. Rockwell Collins/Kaiser Electronics was awarded a contract in 2003 to assist the Shimadzu Corp in the development of a new 114 x 114 mm multifunction displays for JASDF F-15Js.
Armament includes provision for carriage and launch of a variety of air-to-air weapons over short and medium ranges, including four AIM-9J/L Sidewinders and four AIM-7E/F Sparrows; 20 mm M61A1 six-barrel gun with 940 rounds of ammunition. Sidewinders to be replaced by Mitsubishi AAM-3 with NEC seeker and proximity fuze and Komatsu warhead. AN/AWG-27 armament control system keeps pilot informed of weapons’ status and provides for their management. Three air-to-surface weapon stations allow for carriage of up to 10,705 kg (23,600 lb) of bombs, rockets or additional ECM equipment.
In October 2010 the JASDF cancelled work on the RF-15J reconnaissance variant, which would have added optical and infrared cameras and other reconnaissance devices. Japan would continue to use its aging RF-4E reconnaissance planes instead. Toshiba is required to deliver the fighter between September and October 2010 under a series of contracts signed in fiscal 2007 and 2008, totalling 10 billion yen (roughly US$100 million). Failing to procure necessary components from abroad, however, Toshiba had asked the ministry for permission to delay the delivery until spring 2012. The ministry declined the request on the grounds that Toshiba would be unable to deliver the required reconnaissance capabilities in the absence of necessary parts, even with the delay. This decision followed an announcement that Japan was considering buying Global Hawk unmanned aerial vehicles.
By early 2011 Japan was studying options for retiring the 40 year old F-4J fighters without losing combat capability, until the F-35 / F-X fighters are delivered. Two options are either purchasing additional F-2 fighters, or upgrading the F-15 fleet. Production of the F-2, at US$100 million per copy, had been extended beyond the scheduled termination in fiscal 2011.
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