Requiring a modern successor to its aging line of Lockheed T-33 intermediate jet trainers, the Japan Air Self-Defense Force (JASDF) commissioned Kawasaki Heavy Industries (KHI) to design, develop and manufacture a new local solution. The work spawned the Kawasaki "T-4" of which four prototypes were built to the "XT-4" design standard and a first-flight was recorded on July 29th, 1985. Since then, some 208 examples have been delivered to the JASDF, Japan being the only operator of this aircraft series. Service entry was had in 1988.
As an intermediate jet trainer, the T-4 is intended as a bridge product for airmen cadets transitioning from basic turboprop trainers to full-fledged jet-powered combat warplanes. As such, the T-4 sports jet powerplants and exhibits high-performance capabilities. Composites are used in its construction to keep weight levels down yet retain a robustness the aircraft needs in performing combat-like maneuvers.
Such is the quality and capability of the design that it is featured as the mount-of-choice for the "Blue Impulse" aerobatics team of Japan. The team graduated to the T-4 from the earlier T-2 jets. Prior to that, the group relied on the North American F-86 Sabre jets (F-models).
The aircraft seats its crew of two, student and instructor, in tandem under a single-piece, lightly framed canopy set ahead of midships. There is an elongated nosecone assembly ahead of the crew and the fuselage tapers to the rear in the typical way. A single vertical tailfin in featured and a pair of horizontal planes complete the empennage. A retractable tricycle undercarriage allows for ground running. The wing mainplanes are mid-mounted along the sides of the fuselage and have underwing hardpoints while being plumbed for fuel delivery. The mainplanes are also swept back for aerodynamic efficiency at high speed.
Dimensions include a length of 42.7 feet, a wingspan of 32.6 feet and a height of 15 feet. Empty weight is 8,360lb against an MTOW of 16,530lb.
Power is served through 2 x Ishikawajima-Harima F3-IHI-30 series turbofan engines developing 3,520lb of thrust each unit. These are aspirated through rounded-rectangle intakes seated to either side of the cockpit and exhaust through ports at the rear-underside of the aircraft. Performance specs include a maximum speed of 645 miles per hour and a range out to 1,035 miles.
Kawasaki markets the T-4 under the strengths of stability and maneuverability - hallmarks of excellent jet trainers.
Despite its Cold War-era roots, the T-4 continues to serve the JASDF service branch today (2017).