During the 1980s the U.S. military wasn’t interested in an updated version of the F-16 so they passed on the opportunity. Japan was replacing some of their aging fleet and decided to develop the new F-16 Agile Falcon in cooperation with Mitsubishi and Lockheed Martin. Production began in 1996 with the first aircraft being delivered in 2000. The new aircraft was named the F-2 and soon earned the nickname “Viper Zero”. Although the F-2 looks similar to the original F-16 it is larger in almost every aspect.
The JASDF 3rd Squadron “Samurai Spirits” was formed on October 1, 1956 as their first actual fighter unit and not a training unit. The squadron made their home base at Misawa Air Base on December 1, 1971. In September 1977 they belonged to the 3rd Air Wing at Misawa and began receiving the Mitsubishi F-1 aircraft. In September 2000 they began to replace the F-1 with the Mitsubishi F-2A Fighter. In 2016 F-2A 43-8524 received a paint scheme honoring the 60th Anniversary of the 3rd Squadron, the longest serving JASDF squadron.