During the 1980s General Dynamics, the developer of the F-16, proposed another version of the F-16 called the F-16 Agile Falcon. The US military opted not to get involved because they were busy upgrading their present fleet as well as developing the new F- 22/JSF. Japan had decided to purchase the F-16 to replace its aging F-1 aircraft but then decided to develop the F-16 Agile Falcon concept. The new aircraft for the JASDF (Japan Air Self Defense Force) would be the F-2 and manufactured with a 60/40 split between Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and Lockheed Martin. Lockheed Martin bought General Dynamics in 1993. Production started in 1996 with the first aircraft being delivered in 2000. 94 of the F-2 aircraft are scheduled to be manufactured. It might look like an F-16 but the Mitsubishi F-2 is a completely new fighter. The general shape may say F-16 and a few things that the F-2 and the F-16 have common are the engine, landing gear, air intake door and the 20 mm gun. But the F-2 has a longer and wider nose to accommodate phased-array radar with 25% larger wing. It is made from a composite material to reduce weight and radar signature, a larger tail plane and larger air intake. The pilot canopy is a stronger three-piece construction. The F-2 is equipped with a drogue chute just like the NATO version of the F-16. The single seat fighter is the F-2A while the two seat version is a trainer that is fully Combat capable.
Mitsubishi F-2A 03-8509 c/n 1009 code 509 was manufactured in 2000 and delivered for active service on December 22, 2000. In September 2014 while with the JASDF 3rd Squadron at Misawa Air Base this F-2A was given a special paint scheme to honor the 60th Anniversary of the JASDF. The design was comprised of a 60th Anniversary badge located on the sides of the air-intake, while the vertical tail displayed the national flag of Japan with cherry blossoms and a diagonal “60th Anniversary” written next to it.