Mitsubishi F-1 (Supersonic Rei-Sen)
Strike / Anti-Ship Fighter Aircraft
The Mitsubishi F-1 fighter was largely based on the Mitsubishi T-2 advanced trainer, replacing Korean War-era F-86 Sabres then in Japanese service.
Authored By: Staff Writer | Last Edited:
In the decades following World War 2 (1939-1945), the Japanese defense industry was rebuilt. After the end of US occupation of Japan in 1952, the island nation established its "Self-Defense Force" (1954) for its own protection and continued its relationship with the US through a 1960 security treaty. With the rise of Mach 2 supersonic fighters - the Japan Air Self-Defense Force (JASDF) itself taking stocks of the Mach 2-capable Lockheed F-104 "Starfighter" and McDonnell Douglas F-4 "Phantom II" during the 1960s - the country found itself lacking a viable supersonic trainer for its next generation of fighter pilots. Despite nearing a deal with European powers to license-produce the British/French SEPECAT "Jaguar" strike platform, Japanese authorities eventually headed in a different direction, attempting an indigenous Japanese aircraft of similar form and function to the European product. In 1967, a Mitsubishi submission was selected ahead of competing designs from Fuji and Kawasaki, bringing about the Mitsubishi "T-2" - a two-seat, twin-engine, jet-powered trainer capable of a 1,050 mile per hour speeds. The aircraft also retained some combat effectiveness and was outfitted with an internal cannon and three hardpoints for external munitions as well as wingtip missiles. Some 90 of the type were eventually produced after adoption in 1975. These aircraft saw decades of faithful service before being retired in March of 2006.
With the cancellation of an unrelated Kawasaki project, funding for a single-seat attack platform based on the T-2 advanced trainer was made available. The T-2 airframe was nominally modified for the role to include a reinforced airframe, additional underwing hardpoints (2), a search and ranging radar in the nose (initially J/AWG-11 then J/AWG-12 series), loss of the instructor's rear cockpit in favor of avionics and a simplified canopy over a revised upper fuselage. In two prototype forms, the aircraft was known as the "FS-T2-Kai" and a first flight was recorded on June 3rd, 1975. In that same year, evaluation models were passed on to the Air Proving Wing at Gifu. After successfully passing its requisite trials phase, the aircraft was officially adopted under the "F-1" designation to become Japan's first locally-designed and produced fighter (jet-powered) since the end of World War 2. The F-1 formally entered service in April of 1978. Production of F-1s spanned into 1987 and yielded 77 total aircraft. It is worth mentioning that development of the F-1 was aided by Fuji involvement.
Most of the physical attributes of the advanced T-2 were retained in the design of the F-1. The aircraft sported a sleek design not unlike the British / French Jaguar though with finer contours. The fuselage was slab-sided with a largely tubular frame housing the radar suite, cockpit, avionics, support systems, fuel stores and engines. The radar assembly was housed in the nose cone with the cockpit immediately aft. The pilot managed excellent views out of the cockpit, particularly forwards, to the sides and above his aircraft though views to the rear were restricted due to the raised fuselage spine. The internal dual-engine arrangement was aspirated by a dual air intake ductwork design featuring rectangular openings to either side of the fuselage aft of the cockpit. Wings were high-mounted and swept with a pair of hardpoints on each. There was also a central fuselage hardpoint which, along with the inboard underwing hardpoints, were plumbed for jettisonable fuel stores. The wingtips were wired to launch short-ranged air-to-air missiles. The empennage consisted of a single vertical tail fin and a pair of downward-canted, all-moving horizontal planes. The F-1 was given a retractable tricycle undercarriage with two main legs and a nose leg - all single-wheeled assemblies. In all, the F-1 exhibited a length of 58 feet, 7 inches, a wingspan of 25 feet, 10.25 inches and a height of 14 feet, 8 inches. The aircraft promoted an empty weight of 14,000lb with a maximum take-off weight of 30,150lb.
Power for the F-1 was served through 2 x Ishikawa-Harima Industries (IHI) TF40-IHI-801A series turbofan engines (with reheat), delivering 5,115lbs thrust (dry) and 7,300lbs thrust (with afterburner engaged). Incidentally, this was the same Rolls-Royce Turbomeca "Adour" turbofan that powered the European Jaguar though license-built in Japan under the TF-40 designation. This provided the airframe with a maximum speed of 1,050 miles per hour, a combat radius of 345 miles and a ferry range of 1,785 miles. The F-1 could reach a service ceiling of 50,000 feet through a rate-of-climb nearing 35,000 feet per minute. In comparison, the British / French Jaguar offered a maximum speed of 1,050 miles per hour, a combat radius of 560 miles, ferry range of 2,190 miles and a service ceiling of 45,900 feet.
The Mitsubishi product sported a standard armament of 1 x 20mm JM61A1 Vulcan Gatling gun utilizing six rotating barrels. This weapon was internally mounted and intended for close-ranged fighting. With its five primary external hardpoints (the wingtips reserved for anti-aircraft missiles), the F-1 could field a mix of air-to-air, air-to-surface and radar-guided anti-ship missiles. Additionally, the hardpoints supported rocket pods and 500lb/750lb conventional drop bombs. Conversion kits enabled precision bombing from these weapons as well. Collectively, the F-1 could fulfill the battlefield roles of fighter, strike fighter and anti-ship platform - essentially presenting herself as a multirole aircraft system.
Production of F-1s was handled through Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and their servicer proved solid though none were ever to see combat action. The F-1 was then replaced by the newer Mitsubishi F-2 which was a joint US-Japanese venture based on the General Dynamics/Lockheed F-16C/D Fighting Falcon multirole line though modified considerably for JASDF service. Additionally, the aging line of F-4 Phantoms was upgraded to the F-4EJ "Kai" standard as an interim solution. Both the F-2 and F-4 have been produced locally by Mitsubishi.
The F-1 was formally retired from frontline service in March of 2006, joining the retiring T-2 advanced trainers. Training functions were taken over by the F-2 following its introduction in 2000.