This week’s factlet will come as no surprise to regular readers: until the last F2 fighter rolled off Mitsubishi Heavy Industries’ production line last December, Japan had been producing fighters domestically for 55 years without interruption.

Mitsubishi has produced all of Japan’s domestically-built fighters in continuous production since the first construction began on the F86 Sabre under license in 1956. The break in production is a terrifying prospect for Mitsubishi and IHI (jet engine manufacturer), who fear a loss of skills and construction/development capability. Japan maintains these skills through research platforms such the ATD-X ‘Shinshin’, as well as through securing some measure of assembly and production through the F35 deal with Lockheed Martin.

In January 2010, Nikkei Business wrote a special feature on Japan’s defense aircraft entitled “Last Chance”. That article featured a chart depicting the domestically-developed fighter program, translated and updated below. Note that the F1 is the only fighter on the list that was domestically developed and produced. All the other fighters were produced under license from American companies.Whether this current gap bodes well for the FXX program (seeking the successor to the F15J) or not remains to be seen.

Click the image below for the full-sized chart:

Timeline of domestic fighter production in Japan

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A former contributor to World Intelligence (Japan Military Review), James Simpson joined Japan Security Watch in 2011, migrating with his blog Defending Japan. He has a Masters in Security Studies from Aberystwyth University and is currently living in Kawasaki, Japan. His primary interests include the so-called 'normalization' of Japanese security (i.e. militarization), and the political impact of the abduction issue with North Korea.
James Simpson has 254 post(s) on Japan Security Watch