Japan is examining the possibility of continuing production of the Mitsubishi F-2 to bolster its fighter fleet in the face of growing Chinese capability, adding some 20 aircraft to the 94 (plus four prototypes) currently procured. The Japan Air Self Defense Force (JASDF) is looking for a new fighter and has stated a desire for the Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor, but U.S. export restrictions have ruled that out.
Lead competitors for the JASDF requirement are now the Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF), Eurofighter Typhoon and Boeing F/A-18E/F. If Japan cannot acquire F-22s, then the F-35 would be a logical choice, but Japan reportedly has concerns about the JSF’s timescale and growing costs. Procurement of additional F-2s would be an interim step to give Japan a longer period in which to make a decision.
The F-2 is an enlarged derivative of the Lockheed Martin F-16, initially developed to meet Japan’s support fighter requirement. That, in turn, entailed anti-ship capability through the integration of ASM-1/2 anti-ship missiles. Mitsubishi is the prime contractor and also builds the forward fuselage and wings. Other major partners are Kawasaki (center fuselage), Fuji (tail and other components) and Lockheed Martin (rear fuselage).