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During the 1980s the U.S. military wasn’t interested in an updated version of the F-16 so they passed on the opportunity. Japan was replacing some of their aging fleet and decided to develop the new F-16 Agile Falcon in cooperation with Mitsubishi and Lockheed Martin. Production began in 1996 with the first aircraft being delivered in 2000. The new aircraft was named the F-2 and soon earned the nickname “Viper Zero”. Although the F-2 looks similar to the original F-16 it is larger in almost every aspect.
The Japan Air Self Defense Force (JASDF) has 12 fighter squadrons and is divided into 4 regions. As part of Japan’s Northern Air Defense Force region the 3rd Air Wing is located at Misawa Air Base located in northern Honshu. The 3rd AW is made up of the 3rd and 8th Squadrons flying the single-seat “A” and dual-seat “B” variants of the F-2. In 2001 the 3rd Squadron received the first of 94 F-2s scheduled for the JASDF.