Japan’s Mitsubishi F-2 fighter is considered the most powerful version developed on the basis of the American F-16.
High maneuverability, precise avionics, and modern arsenal make the F-2’s combat performance stronger than the Chinese J-10.
The F-2 is manufactured by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries with direct support from Lockheed Martin for the Japanese Self-Defense Forces, with a 60/40 split in manufacturing between Japan and the United States. The F-2 is nicknamed “Viper Zero”, a reference to the F-16’s semi-official nickname of “Viper” and the Mitsubishi A6M Zero. Production started in 1996 and the first aircraft entered service in 2000. The first 76 aircraft entered service by 2008, with a total of 98 airframes produced.
When completed, the Japanese fighter is slightly larger than the original version, with a length of 15.52 m, a wingspan of 11,125 m, an empty weight of 9.52 tons, and a maximum takeoff weight of 22.1. ton. The F-2 can reach a maximum speed of Mach 1.7 at high altitude, and Mach 1.1 at low altitude, a combat range of 833 km, and a service ceiling of 18,000 m.
The aircraft is capable of deploying the Raytheon AIM-7F/M medium-range Sparrow air-to-air missile, the Raytheon AIM-9L short-range Sidewinder and the Mitsubishi Heavy Industries AAM-3 short-range air-to-air missile. The F-2 is armed with the ASM-1 and ASM-2 anti-ship missiles. The fighter can also carry 500lb bombs, CBU-87/B cluster bombs and rocket launchers. The centreline and the inner-wing hardpoints can carry drop tanks with a 4,400kg fuel capacity.
Although rated even higher than the F-16, it also has a much more expensive price than the original. Currently, Japan plans to retire its fleet of F-2 fighters by the late 2030s. However, the plan is facing certain obstacles financially, as well as the Tokyo plan itself and the US-Japan relationship.