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Nick Millman

JASDF Lightning

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There are a couple of references in books on the EE Lightning to potential sales to Japan but losing out to the F-104. Is there any more detail about this anywhere? Was the possibility/interest raised by Britain or Japan and were any steps taken towards pursuing the idea or was it only a consideration? Thanks for any information or steers.

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no idea, but this would make a brilliant WHIF project. It would look super cool! B)

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I don't think any were ever flown in Japanese colors if that'w what you're looking for. IIRC the Lightning was in competition with the F-104 and the Grumman Super Tiger. It was initially reported that the JASDF favored the Super Tiger, but in the end, they got the F-104…

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I understand and appreciate the "What If" modelling possibilities for this topic but my question was about the actual historical record, e.g. what overtures, if any, were made by the British and/or Japanese and how serious they were; what led to the decision to go with the F-104 (I understand primarily cost as the US government had subsidised the deal); whether these details are available anywhere? Maybe the activities involved were never recorded?

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On the Naval Fighter series book on the Grumman Super Tiger there are some information on the Japanese selection process that brought to the purchase of the F104J. The Lightning is never mentioned there, with the contenders analysed being four american designs:

- The F-104A

- The Grumman Super Tiger

- The NA F-100D/F

- The Northrop N.156F

In 1957 a team visited the four companies and at the end of the evaluation the following considerations were made:

- The 104 had the best speed and climb performances but was lacking in radius and not really a multi-purpose fighter.

- The Super Tiger was an excellent multi-purpose platform and had very good short take off capability with good performances. The fact that it was clear the USN would not have bought them also meant the unit cost would been the highest of the 4 competitors.

- The F-100D did not fulfil the specifications required

- The N.156F was potentially very good and cheap but only existed on paper and there was no guarantee on the development timeline.

Aftert this first analysis, the Grumman design was considered the best. Japanese industry officials also started all the discussions required to start production in Japan under licence.

However a second team followed in 1959, by which time the F-104 had evolved in the G version while the Super Tiger had received a more powerful J-79 engine. This second team decided that the edge the starfighter had in speed and climb was more important than the better radius of the Supertiger, so it recommended the 104 to be selected. This happened less than a year later.

Industrial considerations probably played a big part: Lockheed had already produced the Neptune in Japan and they knew better than Grumman the system. The Lockheed plane was also being produced for other countries and was a safer bet compared to the Grumman plane.

Regarding the Lightning, I read somewhere that Japanese pilots flew it for evaluation purposes. However I've never seen the name of the Lightning listed regarding this competition. Considering the close industrial liks between Japan and the USA, the selection of a non US plane was probably out of the question anyway.

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You're missing a huge parts of this equation; the Lockheed bribery. This was probably the first real case, but it set the precedent for some of the bigger scandals that occurred later. The finance minister and the prime minister pushed for the F-104, despite the entire military's insistence for the F-11. Even with inferior performance, they argued that the Grumman plane actually offered more advantages for developing their indigenous defence agency. It set off a serious debate, which the F-11 had actually won in 1958. However as you note the G version then came out and that skewed the discussion back to the 104. The entire discussion was full of controversy, which included the sacking of the Japan Defence Agency's Director-General, Ino Shigejiro.

I'm not sure if a non-US design was such a big factor... the Japanese were willing to work with anyone who would give them tech transfer as they were dead set on building up an indigenous defence base. That was the key aspect of this entire debate. Rolls-Royce is a good example of an British firm that has a long history of cooperation. I doubt that EE was willing to offer the same benefits as Grumman or Lockheed.

Edited by -Neu-

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Neu, what I wrote is not my opinion but a summary of the information contained in the book, most of which comes from those that worked in Grumman during the process. The book includes a lot more details, even down to telling the story that the sale team had the presentation translated in Japanese, only to discover when the Japanese team (lead by Minoru Genda) started smiling that the translator had traslated everythin in Korean ! It does not contain any reference to the following scandals, with the only comment being from an ex Grumman employee that they were too much behind Lockheed in the experience of foreign sales.

I am familiar with the "Lockheed system", if only because the same system was later used in Italy during the C-130 sale and resulted years later in a couple of former ministers going on trial. I'm aware of the scandal that hit Japanese politics about the F-104 and the bribes to politicians, scandal that hit the same Genda.

Regarding the Super Tiger, I've always been a fan of that plane, but I believe that it would have been very hard for it to have any success. A plane that is not bought by the forces of the country where it's developed is always going to be a poor contender. I think the Gnat has been the only postwar example of a plane not adopted at home (at least not in its original form) but sold abroad. Interestingly the same plane was evaluated by other countries that then choose the F-104, with Canada being the most impressed.

On the Japanese competition, I still believe that a non US plane would not have won. US political pressure was very strong in Japan in those years, I doubt the US governement would have been happy with the purchase of a british or french plane.

Regarding EE capability to sell the Lightning abroad, they didn't do bad with the Canberra. I know that both Australia and Italy looked at the Lightning before selecting the Mirage III and the 104 respectively, and probably so did others. In Italy the Lightning could not stand any chance, as the requirement was for a plane capable of replacing both the F-86 as day fighter and the F-84F as "special" bomber. The F-104G could do it, the Lightning could only replace the F-86. In Australia it was deleted quite soon from the competition, but I haven't seen any reason listed.

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A couple of years ago I was talking to an old chap who was a Design Engineer for DeHavilland and it seem's that the Japanese (along with West Germany) wanted to buy the Saunders-Roe SR.177 project after it got cancelled but the HMG didn't like the idea.

Steve

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Neu, what I wrote is not my opinion but a summary of the information contained in the book, most of which comes from those that worked in Grumman during the process. The book includes a lot more details, even down to telling the story that the sale team had the presentation translated in Japanese, only to discover when the Japanese team (lead by Minoru Genda) started smiling that the translator had traslated everythin in Korean ! It does not contain any reference to the following scandals, with the only comment being from an ex Grumman employee that they were too much behind Lockheed in the experience of foreign sales.

I am familiar with the "Lockheed system", if only because the same system was later used in Italy during the C-130 sale and resulted years later in a couple of former ministers going on trial. I'm aware of the scandal that hit Japanese politics about the F-104 and the bribes to politicians, scandal that hit the same Genda.

Regarding the Super Tiger, I've always been a fan of that plane, but I believe that it would have been very hard for it to have any success. A plane that is not bought by the forces of the country where it's developed is always going to be a poor contender. I think the Gnat has been the only postwar example of a plane not adopted at home (at least not in its original form) but sold abroad. Interestingly the same plane was evaluated by other countries that then choose the F-104, with Canada being the most impressed.

On the Japanese competition, I still believe that a non US plane would not have won. US political pressure was very strong in Japan in those years, I doubt the US governement would have been happy with the purchase of a british or french plane.

Regarding EE capability to sell the Lightning abroad, they didn't do bad with the Canberra. I know that both Australia and Italy looked at the Lightning before selecting the Mirage III and the 104 respectively, and probably so did others. In Italy the Lightning could not stand any chance, as the requirement was for a plane capable of replacing both the F-86 as day fighter and the F-84F as "special" bomber. The F-104G could do it, the Lightning could only replace the F-86. In Australia it was deleted quite soon from the competition, but I haven't seen any reason listed.

I understand this is basically what you've read... I'm trying to give wider perspective of what happened. The best discussion I've read comes from Richard Samuel's Rich Nation, Strong Army; National Security and the Technology Transformation of Japan, He uses about a half dozen Japanese sources and interviews with officials.

In this case, its almost certain that Prime Minister Kishi Nobusake and his Finance minister were being bribed. But what is essential to understand is the Japanese government's intense interest in building their domestic aerospace industry, particularly between 1955 to 1975ish. This was the same period when a consortium was attempting to build an indigenous commercial aircraft, the YS-11. In this environment, the industrial benefit's package was the main consideration beyond everything else. Cost wasn't an issue, which is why the F-11 was recommended. Indigenous production was prohibitively expensive, and the Japanese paid a major premium to learn how to develop modern fighters. It didn't matter for the Japanese that the F-11 wasn't going to be adopted by the United States. All they cared about was getting the technology and learning the manufacturing process... performance and cost were second.

While the United States was a critical partner at this point, the self sufficiency view was partly based on old-views thoughts on Japanese nationalism. They wanted to rebuild their air force, and the US-Japanese partnership was not sacrosanct. For example, in the early 1960s the JASDF needed a new trainer the options was the T-38 and an indigenous design. After extended discussions they went down the indigenous path with the T-2 and decided to power it with the Turbomecca Adour engine... not an Allison design, because of its superior offsets.

So what was critical was the willingness of these firms to export not only the aircraft, but the licenses involved to produce their aircraft. That's probably why EE lost to Lockheed... I've never seen that arrangement implemented by EE, though De Havilland did have some history with licensed production of the Vampire.

Edited by -Neu-

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A couple of years ago I was talking to an old chap who was a Design Engineer for DeHavilland and it seem's that the Japanese (along with West Germany) wanted to buy the Saunders-Roe SR.177 project after it got cancelled but the HMG didn't like the idea.

Steve

Japan sure looked at the Saunders Roe rocket fighters, as early as the SR.53. I've read references to an interest in buying the whole project at some point, but I am quite skeptical: if the Northrop design was rejected because the plane did not exist yet, the same would have applied to the SR.177.

Germany was involved from the early development of the SR.177. However when the RAF pulled out, they realised that they would have funded the whole project. At that point the SR.177 design was changing, with the mixed propulsion being discarded in favour of a single afterburning turbojet (a much more practical proposition...). This meant that the final development would have required a lot of time and money. At that point Germany pulled out too.

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So what was critical was the willingness of these firms to export not only the aircraft, but the licenses involved to produce their aircraft. That's probably why EE lost to Lockheed... I've never seen that arrangement implemented by EE, though De Havilland did have some history with licensed production of the Vampire.

Thanks for the further information, this is sure a fascinating subject ! I stand by my doubts that the US would have allowed Japan to start building their industry with a non US product though. In fact only american planes were considered in the list, including some that could not be considered really up-to-date, as the F-100J.

DH did actually quite well with licensing in Italy and France. If you're interested, I can provide some more info on the plans DH had to build the Venoms and DH.110 in Italy and the various reasons for this to fail.

EE did have some success in licensing too: the Canberra was built under license in Australia. The Australian government made it clear from the beginning that the wanted to build the planes themselves and EE had no issue. Moreover, EE were prepared to help in the development of a Tay engined version as Australia for a while wanted this engine (that was supposed to power the P.1081). The second prototype (that was built with Nene engines) was proposed as a test bed for the Tay, but in the end Rolls Royce convinced Australia to choose the Avon instead, to be locally built under license.

The Canberra was also built in the US, but I do not know much about the procurement history.

Would this have meant that EE would have been capable of providing what Japan wanted ? Hard to tell....

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Thanks for the further information, this is sure a fascinating subject ! I stand by my doubts that the US would have allowed Japan to start building their industry with a non US product though. In fact only american planes were considered in the list, including some that could not be considered really up-to-date, as the F-100J.

Actually, Japanese industry considered the F-100 their best choice.... but it was largely a bureaucratic fight between the military and politics.

DH did actually quite well with licensing in Italy and France. If you're interested, I can provide some more info on the plans DH had to build the Venoms and DH.110 in Italy and the various reasons for this to fail.

Hey, I'm interested in all history so please continue.

EE did have some success in licensing too: the Canberra was built under license in Australia. The Australian government made it clear from the beginning that the wanted to build the planes themselves and EE had no issue. Moreover, EE were prepared to help in the development of a Tay engined version as Australia for a while wanted this engine (that was supposed to power the P.1081). The second prototype (that was built with Nene engines) was proposed as a test bed for the Tay, but in the end Rolls Royce convinced Australia to choose the Avon instead, to be locally built under license.

The Canberra was also built in the US, but I do not know much about the procurement history.

Would this have meant that EE would have been capable of providing what Japan wanted ? Hard to tell....

Eh, Japan wanted EVERYTHING so they could produce it with no foreign assistance. It was unlike any other country. I had heard that the EE was hesitant about exporting the Lightning, but never saw any corroboration of that since.

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Actually, Japanese industry considered the F-100 their best choice.... but it was largely a bureaucratic fight between the military and politics.

The F-100 was half a generation behind the other contenders and well behind in performances and avionics, even if the Industry liked it I can't see how the military could have accepted such a choice.

Hey, I'm interested in all history so please continue.

Here's the story, assembld together from a few italian sources: the first exposure to the Vampire came for the Italian Air Force (AMI) when 5 RAF Mk.3 crash landed after having exhausted the fuel trying to find the Ghedi airport in the fog. The RAF did not claim the planes back and the local AMI specialists rebuilt a least 1 flying plane out of the 5. In the same year (1949) DH signed an agreement with the italian government for the production under license of the Vampire in Italy. The license deal included both the planes (to be built by Fiat and Macchi) and the engines (to be built by Alfa Romeo). The 3 italian companies formed a consortium named SICMAR for this and the consortium dealt with the italian MoD. Around 200 planes were built, with some ex AMI planes exported to Egypt and a number of Goblin engines were exported to France.

Now the Vampire story is quite well known, lesser known is the story of the Venom and other future plans. DH was keen to continue the collaboration with the italian consortium and the italian government was happy about this as it meant keeping the local industry working and building up experience. DH envisaged a scenario where the Venom would have replaced the Vampire and the Venom NF would have provided the nigth fighter capability. Some sources state that DH already had in mind the replacement of the Venom with a more advanced plane, the DH.110. This is totally plausible as DH kept developing the 110 after the RN decided to select the Sea Venom in 1949 (the DH.110 had its chance later as Sea Vixen as we all know). The AMI followed the DH.110 development for a while, although at the same time they also looked at the competing Gloster Javelin.

Back to the Venom, Italy received 2 Venoms to be used as patterns and in the meantime had received some Vampire NF to start training crews for the night fighters. These were then used up to 1959.

In 1951 however things turned for the worse: Italy could not afford these planes alone and it was always understood that the USA would have subsidised the program with MDAP funds. In summer 1951 the US told the italian government that no MDAP funds would have been made available for the Venom, and the Italians were forced to try fund the program on their own. The Italian sources do not state if DH approached or not the British government, however I guess this would have not been able to fund the program. Italy kept some hope, mainly because the industries preferred to build the Venoms rather than buying the US F-84. The license deals were signed anyway and Alfa started building the Ghost engine. 2 Venom day fighters were bought from DH and assigned to AMI units to start evaluating the type. Then in 1953 the story of the italians Venom FB was over. Italy then received the F-84G and the F-86F.

The night fighter was however still considered, althouh its development was not proceding particularly fast. What is curious is that while the Venom NF was still officially considered, North American had already discussed with Italy about the development of a two-seat NF version of the Sabre. This was considered a bad idea by NA and a modified F-86D was proposed instead. The superiority in performance of the resulting F-86K over the Venom was clear and the AMI preferred this solution, although some in industry preferred the Venom (for obvious reasons). When the US government made clear that NA had already agreed to sign license production deals, DH chances were gone for good. The Ghost engines made by Alfa Romeo were sold to France as they were not needed anymore in Italy, FIAT built the F-86K for Italy and other countries, Macchi lost any chance of having some slice of the pie and focused on a new jet trainer (that became the MB.326). As for the DH.110, its long development meant Italy had at that point lost any interest.

From all the story above there are two main reasons that explain the failure of DH to push their plans:

1) money ! With every country in europe trying to rebuild after the war, most military funding came from the MDAP program. As this was in the end US taxpayers money, the US had control over this money and used it to favour their own products. It's however true that many programs also in the UK were made possible by MDAP funds.

2) technology. The venom was in the end little more than an updated Vampire. It could not compete with the Sabre as a day fighter and in hindsight the british industryas a whole lost many chances not providing swept wing fighters earlier. As much as some in industry were happy to build the Venoms, the AMI at that point wanted the better plane, even if that meant only assembling the planes (what Fiat did with the F-86K). Fiat then used the experience gained from assembly of the Sabres to design the G.91, that bears a striking resemblance with the NA plane, so much that it was nicknamed "little sabre".

Most italian books tend to focus on the shortcomings of the Venom rather than on the funding issues. None mentions political issues, that however had some part. After the war the US and the UK had different views over the status of Italy and its future. Many circles in the UK supported the italian Monarchy and saw Italy as a potential best friend in the south. However these views conflicted with the feelings of many in the new postwar italian ruling class. The US approach was more straightforward and quickly US diplomacy won more friends in Italy than the UK did. By 1953 the italian policy was so much closer to the US than the UK. Add this to the fact that money had to come from the US anyway....

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One thing to recall is that one major problem Japan had in WW2 was their lack of a real industrial base along with the technology and engineering resources to develop and produce modern combat aircraft fast and in large quantities, which is why Japan ended the war relying on primarily the same designs they started with as they had serious troubles developing & producing newer designs under war pressure (and more importantly, producing better engines which was the real weak point of their aircraft industry). Japan was well aware of this, the fact that they had the capability they already did at the beginning of WW2 was due to several decades of very directed industrial development. It however wasn't close to being sufficient for a major war.

Once the mid-50's arrived, Japan in partnership with the US was explicitly developing the broad industrial base they'd previously lacked.

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Hmmmm.....

JASDF-F6.jpg

What a good idea for a WIF...

Dan

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