F-2 / FSX - Production Program
As of 1995 US and Japanese government officials believed Japan would probably produce between 50 and 130 aircraft. After much discussion of a reduction to 70 - 80 machines, the Cabinet in Tokyo approved 130 F-2s in December 1995. However, Lockheed officials, citing Japan's history of producing more aircraft than originally estimated, felt that Japan might ultimately produce as many as 200 FS-X aircraft. Roll-out was on January 12, 1995, with tests scheduled until 1999. Production deliveries began in September 2000 and were to continue beyond 2010.
The key technologies involved, particularly an all-new composite wing, have proven troublesome, and total development costs came to about $5 billion. The unit price tag is over three times that of a typical F-16C Block 50. Development delays caused the F-2's unit price to leap from a projected 8 billion yen ($72.4 million) to 12 billion yen, the same price as larger fighter aircraft (e.g. F-15).
In August 2004 it was reported that Japan planned to stop the procurement of the F-2 fighter, following a Japanese Defense Agency review that concluded that the F-2 was the least cost-effective of all available options. At that time only 76 of the aircraft were either deployed or under construction. The review also concluded that while the F-15 is being upgraded, there is little room to upgrade the F-2 because of its smaller size. New contracts were planned to purchase an additional 10 to 20 units, but those would mark the end of the procurement. Another five were funded in FY05. The last of the 81 funded by FY2005 were delivered in FY08, although production is likely to keep going for another few years at the current very low level in order to retain a warm production line to support the follow-on F-X program.
In 2007 the Japan Government authorized the total production of 94 F-2 aircraft, and this new award to Lockheed Martin brought the total aircraft under contract to 86. Lockheed Martin is producing components for 81 F-2 aircraft from those orders initiated under the 10 previous annual contracts. Lockheed Martin received a contract from Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) on 31 March 2007 valued at $150 million to manufacture components for five additional F-2 production aircraft. MHI is the prime contractor for the F-2, Japan's operational support fighter.
In April 2008 Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co. received a $250 million contract from Mitsubishi Heavy Industries to manufacture components for eight additional F-2 aircraft. With the award of this twelfth and final annual F-2 production contract, Lockheed Martin will begin fabrication and delivery of components for the last eight aircraft. The latest deal brought the total aircraft Lockheed had under contract to 94. Lockheed has completed components for the first 83 F-2 aircraft. Mitsubishi delivered the first production aircraft to Japan's Ministry of Defense in September 2000, and planned to complete delivery of the first 76 aircraft early in Japan fiscal year 2008.
An F-2 support fighter crashed 31 October 2007 at Nagoya airport. The Japanese F-2 fighter jet burst into flames just after takeoff, but its two pilots managed to escape. Japanese police investigated Mitsubishi Heavy's plant near Nagoya, central Japan, after the F-2 support fighter crashed. The factory builds and maintains the aircraft for the military. The Aichi prefectural police, suspecting professional negligence resulting in injuries, seized documents related to servicing work as well as the F-2 support fighter heavily damaged in the accident.
Japan was set to end production of its F-2 aircraft in 2011, raising concerns over the future of Japan's fighter-jet industry. Japan's agreement with the US to jointly produce the F-2 fighter jets ended in 2011. The last F-2 fighter was delivered to the Ministry of Defense on September 27, 2011; this marked the end of the production of fighter aircraft in Japan for the foreseeable future.
Hitherto, Japan’s production and technological base s have been maintained and improved because (1) there has been continuous production of fighter aircraft in Japan, as well as related research and development; and (2) the upgrades and repairs necessary from an operational perspective have been carried out here. Accordingly, Japan has ensured the existence of the three elements that are absolutely vital to the operation of fighter aircraft: “maintaining high availability,” “improving in their capabilities appropriate to operation by Japan,” and “maintaining safety."
In light of deliberations concerning the production and technological bases for fighter aircraft, in November 2010, the Ministry of Defense convened the Study Group on Defense Production and Technological Bases, the members of which included academics; the group commenced deliberations concerning approaches to the strategy for Japan’s defense production and technological bases, and compiled the Final Report of the Study Group on Defense Production and Technological Bases in June 2012. This report sets forth the following points. It is difficult, in terms of both finance and technical strength, for Japan to maintain all of its defense production and technology infrastructure alone, in light of the current harsh fiscal situation, the increasingly high-performance and complex nature of defense equipment, and the globalization of the economy.
Consequently, while taking international joint development and production into consideration, the formulation of a strategy that takes into account the issues detailed below is required, based on an awareness of the necessity of ascertaining which areas of the defense production and technological bases must be retained within Japan; and taking measures to maintain, cultivate, and upgrade them, in order to maintain, cultivate, and upgrade the defense production and technological bases with a view to achieving the stable maintenance and upgrading of Japan’s defense capability in the medium- to long-term.
|Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list|