August 9, 2004 (by Lieven Dewitte) - Japan plans to stop the procurement of the F-2 fighter within a few years. After a defence review the Japanese Defense Agency has concluded that the F-2 is the least cost-effective of all available options.
Japanese F-2B (63-0004) fighter design.
In October of 1987, Tokyo agreed to base its F-2
on the U.S. F-16 fighter as a compromise after Washington urged it to order US-made planes to help cut Japan's trade surplus with its biggest ally.
The F-2 was jointly developed by Japan and the United States. The Japanese congress approved the production program in mid 1996 and the government planned to procure a total of 130 F-2 aircraft. However, in a rare move for Japan, procurement will now halt well short of that number.
Production deliveries of the F-2 began in 1999 and were scheduled to continue through 2011. So far, however, only 76 of the aircraft are either deployed or under construction. Next fiscal year, new contracts to purchase an additional 10 to 20 units will be made, but those will mark the end of the procurement.
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).
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.
Japan's armed forces would in future fly only two models of fighter plane, rather than the current three, the Yomiuri said. These would be the F-15 and the F-4, an ageing plane due to be replaced with a new model soon.