Hobby Master HA2714 JASDF F-2B 33-8116 Return to Matsushima AB 4th AW 21st Sqn 2016 1/72
The Japan Air Self Defence Force Mitsubishi F-2 is a multi-role fighter design based on the General Dynamics proposed 'Agile Falcon' update for the F-16 aircraft with manufacturing split between Mitsubishi in Japan and Lockheed Martin in the US. The JASDF F-2s are often called 'Viper Zero', reference to both the commonly used F-16 nickname of 'Viper' and the WW2 Mitsubishi Zero fighter.
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 (F-2B) is a trainer that is fully combat capable.
On March 11, 2011 a magnitude 9 earthquake rocked Northeastern Japan and created a gigantic tsunami (tidal wave) that devastated the entire area. As the water rushed over land it found its way onto the Matsushima AB destroying or damaging 18 F-2 jets. It wasn't until March 2016 when the base was restored that F-2B 33-8116 wearing a special paint scheme made a commemorative flight at Matsushima to mark the return of the 21st Squadron. F-2B 33-8116 was the third F-2 to be restored after the tsunami.