Japan is making its plans for the further development of the Air Self-Defense Forces (AfD), and the F-3 project is a key part of them. Its goal is to create a promising next-generation fighter aircraft with high tactical and technical characteristics. The project is still in its early stages and some of its features have not yet been identified or published. Not so long ago, new details became known.
In recent weeks, the Japanese Defense Ministry has published some interesting news and new materials on the F-3 project. It follows that organizational issues are being addressed. Once this phase is complete, it will be possible to move on to engineering tasks. At the same time, there is already an approximate understanding of what the new aircraft should be.
In December, the Defense Ministry published a new image of the future fighter, reflecting current views on the project. The picture shows an integrated aircraft with a high-lying wing and a ruined V-shaped tail plumage. The powerplant includes a pair of turbojet engines. The weapon rye is planned to be placed on the outer and internal suspension.
At the same time, we are not talking about the final definition of the appearance of future aircraft. Discussions on this issue are ongoing and there are some interesting proposals. Thus, the possibility of attracting foreign aircraft manufacturers to the works, in part with direct borrowing of their technologies and developments, is being considered.
It is reported that in the 2020 financial year it is envisaged to launch full-scale development work on the theme of F-3. To do this, the defense budget for 2020 provides for a separate article for 28 billion yen (more than 250 million U.S. dollars). In the coming years, funding will continue and comparable amounts are likely to be allocated.
Mitsubishi Heavy Industries has already been appointed as the main developer of the F-3 fighter. Other companies, which are also foreign companies, are also planned to be involved in the project. This year, the Ministry of Defense of Japan is going to find potential foreign participants. Invitations will be received by BAE Systems, Airbus, Lockheed Martin, etc.
The intention to cooperate with foreign companies has led to the emergence of versions about possible approaches to design. Some popular in the media is the version about plans to borrow the work or even to create an F-3 aircraft based on the existing foreign machine. Which aircraft will be copied or redesigned depends on which foreign company will cooperate with Mitsubishi. However, officials do not comment on such versions.
Plane of the future
According to the known data, the F-3 fighter project is in the earliest stages. There are several years left until the full set of documentation, as well as the construction of the prototype. Construction of the prototype will not begin until the mid-twenties, and its testing may last until the end of the decade.
The main goal of the F-3 project is a full-scale renewal of the Japanese Air Force Tactical Aviation Park. With these aircraft, it is planned to replace the aging F-2 fighter jets, a redesigned version of the American F-16. Production of such machines began in 1996 and continued until 2011. Under current command plans, the F-2 will remain in service until the thirties.
The industry regularly repairs and upgrades of cash fighters, but in the future, they will be abandoned. In about 10-12 years, the FVS plans to begin the process of decommissioning the obsolete F-2 with the replacement of the new F-3.
The F-3 aircraft is being developed with an eye to the distant future, which affects the requirements for it. It has been argued for some time that the project will use elements of the conventional sixth generation of fighters. Thus, the promising F-3 will have significant advantages over the current fighters of the Japanese Air Force. In addition, it will be able to remain in service and effectively meet the challenges in the distant future.
Currently, the tactical aircraft of the Japanese Armed Forces uses aircraft of several types. The base of this fleet is the fourth generation F-15J and F-2 fighter jets. The operation of such equipment may continue for the next few years, but will then need to be replaced. Plans for rearmament have already been drawn up and even implementation has begun.
First of all, the VSS will be updated by purchasing American fighters of the last fifth-generation F-35 Lightning II. There is a contract for the supply of ok. 150 such aircraft in two modifications. More than two-thirds of the f-35A will be modified; it is also planned to purchase 42 F-35B aircraft. So far, the U.S. has handed over more than a dozen new fighter jets to the customer, and Japan is training its personnel.
Over the next few years, the new imported F-35s will serve alongside the cash of older aircraft. Then the process of decommissioning the obsolete samples starts, which will change the balance of power and increase the responsibility placed on the Lightning.
In the future, at the turn of the twenties and thirties, the command plans to start purchasing the next sixth-generation fighter. Deliveries of serial F-3s will gradually decommission the hopelessly outdated F-2 with the simultaneous acquisition of known advantages.
Thus, according to the current plans of the Japanese command, over the next few years, the Air Self-Defense Forces will seriously re-establish a fleet of combat aircraft with a marked increase in combat capability. During the twenties, the fifth generation of fighters will be fully implemented, and at the turn of the thirties, the troops will receive the equipment of the next model.
It should be noted that in such plans the current F-3 project has a special place. In fact, this project is a key component of the rearmament program and determines the future of the Japanese Armed Forces for the next few decades. In addition, it will have to demonstrate the ability of the Japanese industry to create next-generation aviation equipment.
Japanese aircraft manufacturers have already demonstrated their ability to create modern aircraft – the result of which was an experienced X-2, which has been tested in the recent past. But the industry now faces new challenges. Promising F-3s should be developed with a backlog for the distant future, for which it must meet the requirements for the as-yet-unformed sixth generation.
It is not known whether all the existing plans will be fulfilled. So far, the F-3 project is in its earliest stages, and even the overall appearance of the aircraft has not been defined. However, the Japanese Air Security Service and the contractor companies are determined and intend to bring their own next-generation aircraft to production and service. In the meantime, the Air Self-Defense Forces will have to use the available equipment and develop a new foreign model.