Like Germany in the post-World War 2 years, Japan's military capacity was stripped. The United States occupied the island nation until 1952 to which the nation was then allowed to establish its Self-Defense Force in 1954. From this came procurement of foreign military equipment to stock its various new-found services - including the purchase and local manufacture (under license by Mitsubishi) of the North American F-86 Sabre. However, with the arrival of Mach 2-capable acquisitions such as the Lockheed F-104 Starfighter and McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II - of which Japan both purchased and locally-produced - there proved a requirement for a Mach 2-minded jet-powered trainer. To this point, Japanese airmen trained on aging F-86 Sabres whose technological period had since passed. Japanese authorities came close to a deal to produce the joint British-French SEPECAT Jaguar strike platform in a two-seat form though this agreement fell to naught. The country did secure rights to manufacture its engines - the Rolls-Royce Turbomeca Adour - and this moved on developing an indigenous airframe along similar lines as the Jaguar. This begat the "T-X" initiative to fulfill the advanced trainer role while the related "SF-X" program offshoot was to supply a future, combat-capable strike fighter. The end result of the former became the Mitsubishi T-2 which holds a claim as Japan's first post-World War 2 indigenously-designed and built supersonic aircraft. The SF-X then became the Mitsubishi F-2 fighter, the country's first post-war, indigenously-designed and built supersonic fighter aircraft (detailed elsewhere on this site).
The original specification was met with submissions from Mitsubishi, Fuji and Kawasaki to which the Mitsubishi design was formally selected in 1967. The prototype was designated as XT-2 and assistance on the project was provided by Fuji. The prototype was made ready in April of 1971 and achieved its first flight on July 20th of that year. The XT-2 program eventually produced four complete prototypes to help test out the various systems, subsystems and intended weapons. The design was then passed on to the Japan Air Self Defense Force (JASDF) for active testing to which it passed all requisite trials. The formal designation of "T-2" was assigned in August of 1973 and the aircraft was formally introduced in 1975. Operational capacity was reached the following year and the stock of F-86 Sabre trainers was subsequently retired.
The T-2 was given a physical shape not unlike that of the competing British/French Jaguar and seemed to incorporate some qualities of the American Northrop T-38 Talon advanced trainer as well. The cockpit was set aft of a slim, pointed nose cone and included seating for two - the student in the forward cockpit and the instructor in the rear. The rear position was slightly raised for a more commanding view ahead of the aircraft. Vision out of each position was generally good save for the rear which was blocked by the raised fuselage spine. Each pilot was also given ejection seats (Weber ES-7J "Zero-Zero"). Wings were high-mounted along the fuselage and swept rearwards - lacking traditional ailerons with differential spoilers used in their place (forward of the flaps). As in the Jaguar and Talon, the T-2 was powered by a pair of turbofan engines which were license copies of the British/French Rolls-Royce Turbomeca Adour. These were installed within the aft portion of the fuselage. The twin engine arrangement was then aspirated by a pair of rectangular-shaped intakes found at each side of the fuselage. The empennage included a single vertical tail fin and all-moving horizontal tailplanes. The engines exhausted through a pair of conventional rings located at the base of the tail. The undercarriage included a pair of single-wheeled main legs and a single-wheeled nose leg. Construction of the airframe was largely aluminum with titanium utilized near the engine mountings - roughly 10% of the aircraft's weight was due to the use of titanium.
The T-2 was conceived across two major production marks which themselves were led by the original XT-2 prototypes. The T-2(Z) "Zenkigata" (also "T-2A") was the initial mark and represented the basic two-seat unarmed pilot trainer. The JASDF took delivery of 28 of this type. The T-2(K) "Kokigata" (also "T-2B") then followed and served as the definitive two-seat weapons trainer and these appeared in 62 examples, all delivered to the JASDF.
The T-2(K) exhibited a length of 58 feet, 6 inches, a wingspan of 25 feet, 10 inches and a height of 14 feet, 4.25 inches. The airframe sported an empty weight of 13,660lbs and a maximum take-off weight nearing 28,220lbs. Power was served through 2 x Ishikawa-Harima TF40-801A afterburning turbofan engines developing 4,700lbs thrust on dry and 7,140lbs thrust with reheat engaged. This provided the aircraft with a maximum speed of 1,056 miles per hour, a ferry range of 1,785 miles and an operating service ceiling of 50,000 feet. Internally, the T-2(K) was outfitted with the J/AWG-11 search/ranging radar system developed by Mitsubishi and was similar in scope and function to the systems as fitted in British naval F-4 Phantoms (the AN/AWG-11 of the Phantom FG.1). The unarmed T-2(Z) trainers did not feature the radar installation.
The T-2 was an advanced jet-powered trainer in its primary guise but also retained some limited combat qualities about her. This included 1 x 20mm JM61A1 internal Gatling cannon for close-in fighting. There were also three hardpoints (one at fuselage centerline and one under each wing assembly) for external munitions as well as jettisonable fuel stores. Additionally, the wingtips were wired to support short-ranged missiles.
In all, Mitsubishi produced 90 T-2 aircraft with the final example delivered in 1988. One T-2 was used in the experimental CCV ("Experimental Configuration Vehicle") vehicle intended to test triplex fly-by-wire controlling. Two other T-2 airframes were set aside to serve as the prototype for the upcoming SF-X fighter - resulting in the related Mitsubishi F-1 development. T-2 trainers were used operationally up until their official retirement in 2006, the same time that the F-1 fighters were also given up for good. These were both replaced by the modern and more advanced Mitsubishi F-2 inspired by the F-16 Fighting Falcon C/D line through a joint development effort between Japan and the United States. Beyond the arrival of the F-2, Japan modernized its fleet of F-4 Phantoms to the newer F-4EJ "Kai" standard and obtained a production license for the excellent McDonnell Douglas F-15 Eagle air superiority fighter. The Mitsubishi F-2 directly replaced both the T-2 trainers (in the advanced trainer role) and F-1 fighters (in the strike fighter role).
(OPERATORS list includes past, present, and future operators when applicable)
✓Close-Air Support (CAS)
Developed to operate in close proximity to active ground elements by way of a broad array of air-to-ground ordnance and munitions options.
Developed ability to be used as a dedicated trainer for student pilots (typically under the supervision of an instructor).
58.6 ft (17.85 m)
25.9 ft (7.88 m)
14.4 ft (4.39 m)
13,669 lb (6,200 kg)
28,219 lb (12,800 kg)
+14,551 lb (+6,600 kg)
(Showcased structural values pertain to the base Mitsubishi T-2 production variant)
2 x Ishikawa-Harima TF40-801A turbofans developing 4,710lb thrust on dry and 7,140lb thrust with afterburner (reheat).
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