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F-3A Shinden II - Plain Blue

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F-3A Shinden II

The F-3 Shinden II(震電II, "Magnificent Lightning") is a next-generation combat aircraft manufactured by Taiga Heavy Industries.

Born from a series of national and global incidents in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks, the F-3 was developed to protect Japanese airspace from enemy incursions. Using an array of cutting-edge technology, it is one of the most advanced aircraft in the world, rivaling the F-22A Raptor and the PAK FA (Now Su-57 Felon).

The creation of the Shinden II was caused by an airspace intrusion incident that occurred in 2002. On May 14, two CFA-44 Fandance aircrafts entered Japan airspace without authorization and flew over the home islands of Hokkaido and Kyushu before vanishing entirely. The event, combined with the global state of alert in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks and a perceived weakness of the country's air defense networks sparked a realization that a new fighter interceptor was needed to secure the national airspace from potential outside threats.

Development of the aircraft by Taiga Heavy Industries formally began in August 2003. Because some of the personnel involved in the program were interested in Imperial Japanese Army technology, the project was internally named "Shinden II" after the Kyūshū J7W1 Shinden, a canard-using prototype fighter. In October of that same year, Taiga contacted United Kingdom aircraft engine manufacturers Rolls-Royce and EuroJet to acquire turbines for the new aircraft.

In August of 2004, the project was publicly unveiled as the "Shinden II", retaining its internal designation. The basic body design was finished in October 2005, and tests with EuroJet engines were conducted in May 2006.

Start of construction

In November 2008, the Japanese Defense Agency approached Taiga Heavy Industries to formally order the development of functional ASF-X airframes, and a deal was struck to conduct further testing. In February the following year, a cadre of officials from the Ministry of Defense, the successor body to the Agency, reviewed the Shinden II and a second round of talks was held with Taiga over the plane. The company ordered a batch of six STOVL (Short Take-off and Vertical Landing) engines from Rolls-Royce in March, and received them in May. With the approval of the Ministry, the production of a functional prototype started in May 2010, followed closely by the production of an air-to-air missile for the aircraft on June. The first prototype, the "ASF-X-0", was built for airframe strength testing in September, proceeding the development of the ASF-X-01 model. A year later, Taiga Heavy Industries unveiled the "F-3 ENG", an English export version, 60 of which were ordered by the British government in August 2012. The company began internal testing of the -01 model in August 2013.

The ASF-X-01 was later delivered to the Ministry of Defense in February 2014, and Japan's Technology Research and Development Institute formed an internal testing group, the Provisional Assessment Team, composed of F-15J pilots from the JASDF. Testing of the aircraft began in March, and a test flight at Taiga's Yokosuka aircraft factory in April marked the beginning of a series of over 1,200 sorties over the next four years. Problems related to electricity and cracking arose, however none of them were serious enough to warrant the grounding of the plane.

January 2016 saw the beginning of the Phase II period of testing. The ASF-X-02, an STOVL-based model whose development began the previous September, was delivered to the Ministry in June. The third and fourth aircraft, the ASF-X-03 and ASF-X-04 followed suit in July and August, respectively. All four aircraft participated in a final test flight some time later, and the Shinden II was deemed ready for service.

October saw the beginning of production of the preliminary F-3FSD (Full Scale Development) model, the CTOL model's starting that same month and the STOVL version following suit in December. The first FSD unit was completed in May 2017, and tested two months later. A batch of six STOVLs and six CTOLs was produced and delivered to detachments in Hokkaido and Okinawa for testing purposes to detect and solve problems as rapidly as possible.

Blatnoi attacks and entry to service

The bombing carried out by the New Russian Federation on Haneda harbor of Tokyo in September 2018 caused the Japanese military to alter their aviation protocols, ordering the testing Shinden IIs to permanently carry live weapons in case of enemy attacks. Three days later, a second attack against Tokyo was foiled by the four ASF-X test units, which had just returned from an emergency simulacrum in the Sanriku Coast. The aircraft engaged a squadron of NRF Su-37s backed by jammer aircrafts, most of which retreated after the initial attack force was defeated in the capital. The incident in Tokyo prompted the government to authorize the entry of the F-3 into active service. Months later, a conventional F-3FSD was delivered to the Ministry of Defense in January 2018, followed by a VTOL model in March. The Japan Air Self Defense Force held a ceremony in April 2019 commemorating the Ministry of Defense's delivery of the first F-3As to a temporary testing unit of the JASDF. A month later, the delivery of the first batch of F-3Bs, their development starting in October, was scheduled for a squadron of the Maritime Defense Forces from Naval Air Facility Atsugi. Meanwhile, the twelve FSD units were planned to be converted to mass-production standard, with eight receiving the serial number 90-8701 and others would be designated 90-7001.

Later service

In April 2020, the Japanese military began trials of the F-3B. The following year, the United Kingdom purchased the first batch of F-3B aircraft, dubbed the F-3C-RN " Magnificent Lightning" in British service. The first batch of English Shindens was delivered to the British city of Portsmouth by a Maritime Defense Force ship in September 2021, which undertook a journey from Yokosuka through Singapore and South Africa.

The British Shindens were given to a squadron led by Captain Clemens Knightley, which had their tail fins adorned with a stylized samurai helmet in commemoration for being the first F-3s in UK service. Knightley's unit was part of the English forces that cooperated with Japan in the October 2021 West Africa civil war, which repeatedly engaged the Nigerian army. At the end of the war, a Shinden II engaged and destroyed a CFA-44 Nosferatu backing the Nigerians in a major battle off the coast of Lagos.

Design Detail

Fuselage
A next-generation combat aircraft, the F-3 Shinden II was developed first and foremost as a swing-role fighter, being able to engage multiple targets and rapidly switch between objectives. The combination of canards and the CCV configuration provide the Shinden with an unparalled level of mobility. Furthermore, a single command from the pilot under certain circumstances causes the aircraft to automatically perform a special action to position itself in an optimal position to attack. Officially named a " counter-maneuver", this ability allows the Shinden to quickly evade pursuing enemies and place itself in an attack position. As a result, the Shinden became humorously known as the "Ninja Fighter" among baffled United States pilots who witnessed these maneuvers.

Avionics
The Shinden uses an advanced fly-by-optics system in lieu of a traditional fly-by-wire system because it allows for faster data transmission, and for being immune to electromagnetic interference. The system was first used on the Kawasaki P-1, turn the Shinden into the world's first full-fledged combat aircraft to use it. The F-3 uses a quadruple hydraulic backup system, assisted by a fuel cell-powered emergency system. The lightness of the aircraft's body gives it a sizeable flight envelope, allowing the pilot to perform stressful maneuvers without risking its physical integrity.

Weapons

Pilot gear
The basic equipment of Shinden II pilots is an anti-G flight suit worn over the user's cover-alls. It is used in conjunction with a Combat Edge breathing system, responsible for preventing blood from accumulating in the user's head and providing oxygen.
Because Japan is surrounded by sea, all suits come with a floating vest in case of an emergency. Additional wear is required for operations exceeding the aircraft's 19,000-feet flight ceiling. The Shinden II uses a Machida FH-1SS2 flight helmet. Developed jointly by Japan and the United Kingdom and created using carbon-fiber-reinforced polymer (CFRP) materials to reduce weight, it uses a helmet-mounted display (HMD) visor similar to that of the F-35 Lightning II. It displays basic flight information to the user, and allows the off-axis launch of AAM-5 and -7 missiles.

The helmet was designed to protect the pilot's head in high-G situations and ejections. However, a major disadvantage is that each helmet has a price five times greater than that of similar products.

Variants

ASF-X-00 : Original prototype. Developed for body strength testing in May 2010.
ASF-X-01 : Second prototype and first model to fly. CTOL-based. Used for hundreds of tests from 2014 through 2018 in Yokosuka. Serial number 40-8001.
ASF-X-02 : STOL-based successor to the -01, designed to test the technologies used in the F-3B. Serial number 60-8002.
-ASF-X-03 and 04 : Third and fourth test models. Configuration and serial numbers unknown.
-F-3FSD : "Full Scale Development". Preliminary production model developed jointly by Taiga Heavy Industries and the Technical Research and Development Institute. Twelve built (six as CTOL and the others as STOVL); all were converted to F-3 standard.
Mass production
F-3A : CTOL production model.
-F-3B : Second model using STOVL technology. Entered testing in 2019; saw service in 2020.
-F-3C : Maritime Self-Defense Force model. Designed to be operated from vessels such as aircraft carriers.
-RF-3A : F-3A modified for reconnaissance missions.
-Q-X : Unmanned ASF-X airframe.
Export models (Magnificent Lightning)
-F-3C-RN : None STOVL model developed for the Royal Navy. Suffix stands for "Royal Navy"; known in UK service as the "Sea Magnificent Lightning FA.1". First batch delivered to Portsmouth, England in 2020.
-F-3C-RAF : Export model developed for the Royal Air Force developed from the F-3A. Known as the "Magnificent Lightning FG.1".

Users

Japan

Northern Air Defense Force 3rd Aviation Regiment, No. 808 Squadron
A squadron based in Misawa Air Base. Ten F-3As were to be delivered to the unit to strengthen aerial defense capabilities of the Northern Air Defense Force, of which five were in service in the 2020s. The remaining five were to be delivered in 2022.

Naval Air Station Atsugi
A batch of F-3Bs was planned for use by a temporary dispatch unit of the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force's 11th Aviation Group stationed at NAS Atsugi. The goal of the squadron was to train pilots to fly the aircraft, serving as the foundation for a future trainer unit. The formation of similar units in the 12th and 13th Air Forces occurred in 2026.

Central Air Defense Force
A number of F-3s was delivered to the 801st Aviation Regiment No. 9 Squadron of the Central Air Defense Force and the 51st Training Squadron of Air Training Command, both stationed at Hyakuri Airfield in the Ibaraki Prefecture. Some of the earliest produced F-3s were delivered to a temporal training unit. The 51st Squadron was established in the spring of 2021, which would later become the 9th Aviation Group.

Air Development and Testing Wing (ADTW)
The Air Development and Testing Wing is a special squadron of the JASDF's Air Development and Test Command stationed in Gifu Air Field. It used the F-3 in all production stages as technology demonstrators. As of 2022, they were involved in the development of the XASM-4 missile and R-type detection systems for the F-3.

Southern Composite Air Division
An unspecified number of F-3s were delivered to the No. 802 Squadron of the 10th Aviation Regiment, based in Naha Air Base. In 2013, the 83rd Air Wing(based in Naha) became the 10th Regiment, and housed three Shinden teams ever since. As with Misawa, the current force was scheduled for future upgrades.

19th Squadron "Aces"
A special testing squadron of the Air Self-Defense Force formed to test the original ASF-X models. Known members include Kei Nagase and Wataru Asano, a fellow pilot.

United Kingdom

Unnamed squadron
An F-3C-RN fighter squadron led by Captain Clemens Knightley. It collaborated with Japanese troops in a joint operation against Nigeria in the 2021 West Africa war. To commemorate the delivery of the first F-3Cs, the Shindens operated by this unit bore black vertical stabilizers adorned with a feudal samurai helmet.

- Old Acepedia of ASF-X Shinden II
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