The F3 program was initiated in response to Japan's requirement for an interceptor to replace its aging fleet of F-15Js. The F-22 was considered too expensive to allow for a 1 to 1 replacement of the Eagle fleet. In addition, with the rise of communist China's air power, Japan felt that it needs to increase its number of air frames beyond current levels. Hence the hunt was on for a relatively affordable interceptor that will afford it a clear and distinct advantage over any SU-27 derivate and/or the next generation of eastern block fighters.
Since advance 3rd generation types such as the European Typhoon of Rafale - as well as an evolved version of the Mitsubishi F-2 or US-teens - will fall way short of the requirement, the decision was made to purpose a brand new airframe. The crash project was to be a joint venture between the US and Japanese military industrial complex. The initial budget was roughly $ 6 billon, but this was sub-sequently doubled to $ 12 billon with $ 6 billon coming from the USA which sees the opportunity to acquire a naval interceptor to supplement the F-18E/F. Given the very modest development budget the program attempted to avoid the development of new systems as much as possible and inherits the majority of internal systems fro the F-35.
The radar is an updated version of the F-35's AN/APG-81 AESA unit -designated the AN/APG-81 (v)1-with an advance antenna group utilizing Gallium-Indium-Aluminum MMICs and a 25% increase the number of T/R modules. The F135-PW-100 engine, cockpit displays, distributed aperture optical sensors, ESM are all practically carried over from the F-35. In essence the F-3 program attempts to repackage the F-35 into a new airframe optimized for interception. Greater speed and stealth are emphasized, as is the reduced supersonic drag. Internal fuel capacity is reduced (5500 Kg. vs. 8300 Kg.) and payload capacity is cut (4200 Kg. vs. 7700 Kg.).
The aircraft bears some resemblance to the YF-23 and is constructed largely of advanced composites. The F-3 has a combat radius of 450 nm internal fuel. Thanks to the low bypass engine, it boasts an operational altitude in excess of 22000 m. It is also able to sustain at Mach 1.5 without afterburners and can attain Mach 2,2 on full reheat. The aircraft has two internal weapons bays - each capable of accommodating two AIM-120C/D missiles or two 250 lb. small diameter bombs. There is no internal gun even though provision was made for the F-35B's centerline gun pod to be carried. There are two hard points under each wing rated for 1500 kg. These are capable of handling an external tank, a pair of AIM-120C/D missiles, a pair of AIM-9x missiles and other ordnance. The unit cost is expected to be about $ 60 million assuming a production runs of 500 units, To facilitate export to a wider range of clients, the US partners are also preparing a downgraded version powered by a General Electric F110-GE-132 engine (32000 lbs. thrust). This version will be equipped with the F-18E's AN/APG-79 radar and is dubbed the F-36/110-LC. This attempt appears to be patterned after the abortive efforts in the late 70's to offer a downgraded F-16 with a single spool J79 turbojet engine (F-16/79).
Weights: 9500 kg. (empty), 15000 kg. (full internal fuel), 19000 kg. (maximum take off).
Powerplant: 1xPratt & Whitney F135-PW-100 low-bypass turbofan (F-3 & F-36A);136 kN thrust (dry), 182 kN (w/reheat),
Or 1xGeneral Electric F136-GE-100 low-bypass turbofan (F-3 & F-36A); 135 kN (dry), 182 kN (w/reheat),
Or 1xGeneral Electric F110-GE-132 turbofan (F-36/110LC); 95 kN (dry), 142 kN (w/reheat),
Mach 1.6 (w/o reheat), Mach 2.2 (w/reheat), Mach 2.75 (Vmax), 450 nm (combat radius - internal fuel).
Sensors: AN/APG-81(v) 1 radar, DAS, EOTS, advanced F-35 derivative EW suite (F-3/F-36A)
AN/APG-79 radar, forward sector IRST, AN/ALQ-165 EW suite or AN/ALE 214 EW suite.
Weapons: 4xAIM-120 C/D or future weapons compatible with the AIM-120C/D envelope.
1x25mm GAU-12 stealthy gun pod (optional)
2xexternal hard points rated for 1500 Kg.
Unit cost: $ 60 million (F-3/F-36A), $ 40 million (F-36/110LC)
Planned IOC: 2010