|Type-82/F-4J Kai Zuikaku|
|Manufacturer(s)||Empire of Japan|
|Role||Royal Guard-use TSF|
|Engines||Fugaku Heavy Industries FE79-FHI-17A|
|Armament(s)||Type-87 Assault Cannon|
Type-87 Support Assault Cannon
Type-74 PB Blade
Type-65 PB Knife
Type-92 Supplemental Armor
A 1.5th generation Tactical Surface Fighter used exclusively by the Japanese Imperial Royal Guard of the Empire of Japan,> the high-performance Type-82/F-4J Zuikaku (瑞鶴/Auspicious Crane) is the first domestic design produced by the Japanese, and the predecessor to the Type-00 Takemikazuchi.
The Type-82 Zuikaku is a modification of the Type-77/F-4J Gekishin, which had been licensed for Japanese production in 1977, and designed with a focus on improving the performance of the TSF it was derived from. Like most Royal Guard TSFs, it has increased performance at the cost of maintainability and ease of production.
In 1978, the Imperial Interior Ministry, looking to acquire a TSF type exclusive to the Imperial Royal Guard, appointed Fugaku, Kawazaki, and Mitsuhishi Heavy Industries to carry out research and development for new TSF. However, as the manufacturers were fully occupied with the licensed production of the Gekishin, they were unable to spare enough manpower to commit to developing an all-new design at that time. Instead, the manufacturers proposed a plan for an upgraded machine based on the F-4J; the offer was only reluctantly accepted by the Imperial Interior Ministry on the absolute condition that its close-combat performance was superior to the F-4J's.
Development began in 1979, using close-combat data gained from the European front at that time. Numerous changes were implemented that set it apart from the F-4J. These included improvements to its drive system, a 20% reduction in gross weight coupled with a 10% output increase to improve maneuverability and mobility, and redesigned armor modules constructed with newly-developed lightweight materials. It also includes an increased number of Japanese-made components, including a new model of laser warning system; the Type-82F/A variants were also confirmed to carry laser-dispersing chaff countermeasures in special launchers concealed in their shoulder armor blocks. An enlarged head fin was added to the Zuikaku's head unit, adding to the initial two-finned head unit design of the F-4J, and its arm-mounted Blade Sheaths are also larger compared to the Gekishin's; however, it is not confirmed if they are used like control surfaces in a manner similar to the Type-94 Shiranui's own arm sheaths.
Despite various troubles, the prototype was completed in 1981. It performed favorably in various operating trials, although it was noted that the unit suffered from a small decrease in operational uptime, the reason being the increased power output during its operation. That issue was noted and set aside, as it was not seen as a problem for an exclusive-use TSF that would be deployed locally.
The project was viewed favorably, especially by high-ranking Royal Guard officers, some of whom were of the opinion that the angular design of the Zuikaku resembled "the noble stance of a folded paper crane", and viewed the project as a good omen of the beginning of Japanese capability for domestic production of TSFs. By 1982, the TSF had been formally given the name of Zuikaku, and deployment to active Royal Guard formations was initiated.
As a unit for the exclusive use of Royal Guard pilots, the Zuikaku is involved most with issues of homeland defence on Japanese soil; some of its most major deployments were their participation in the Defence of Kyoto during the 1998 BETA Invasion of Japan, and later defending Kyoto again from insurgent Imperial Army forces during the 12/5 Incident. As is the nature of the Royal Guard to follow the color codes specific to their rank, the Type-82, split into four different variants, has appeared in five different colors; purple and blue are indicators of the Type-82R variant, red and yellow for the Type-82F, white for the Type-82A, and black for the Type-82C.
However, unlike its successor unit, the Type-00 Takemikazuchi, no differences in operational performance has been determined amongst the variants. Apart from unit color, the only other visible difference between each variant of the Type-82 is the head unit's visual sensors; the Type-82R uses a different visual sensor design from the Type-82F/A/C variants.
Although is was planned to have the Zuikaku be succeeded by the Type-00 Takemikazuchi by 2000, they remain in use by the 1st, 2nd, and 24th Guard Regiments due to the Type-00's low procurement rates.
The Type-82R is normally painted blue, and given to family members of the 5 ruling houses of the Japanese Shogunate. Ikaruga Takatsugu of the 16th Guard Battalion piloted one such unit in his role during the defence of Kyoto, using it to great effect against the advancing BETA as a spearheading unit in offensive operations.
A purple variant of the Type-82R also exists, for the exclusive use of the Shogun.
The Type-82F, like the Type-82R, also exists in two different colors; the red versions are given to influential samurai close to the Regent Houses, and to security units in charge of the safety of members of the Regent Houses, while the yellow versions are piloted by fudai (hereditary vassals to the Shogun) pilots.
In 1998, a yellow Type-82F belonging to pilot cadet Takamura Yui and another red Type-82F belonging to her squadron leader participated in the defence of the Arashiyama Supply Base, a key location used to resupply troops defending the outskirts of Kyoto. Another red Type-82F was used by Tsukuyomi Maya, another pilot of the Royal Guards, to defend Kyoto during the ending days of the 1998 invasion.
Yui is later seen leading another flight of Type-82s, herself in a yellow Type-82F, as the commander of White Fang Squadron, fighting alongside allied forces in Miho Bay on the 26th of May, 2000. Her second-in-command, Lieutenant Amemiya, also operated a Type-82F in that battle.
The Type-82A is painted white and assigned to pilots from samurai families; several were operated by Iwami Aki, Noto Izumi, Kai Shimako, Yamashiro Kazusa, and other pilot cadets assigned to the same squadron as Yui, to defend the Arashiyama Supply Base and the subsequent retreat into suburban Kyoto, with the group suffering total losses in combat.
Two Type-82As were also seen as part of Yui's flight during the Miho Bay skirmish, on the 26th of May, 2000.
The black-painted Type-82C is used by pilots of non-samurai or non-royal origins serving the Royal Guard. They form the core of most Royal Guard forces, with several Type-82Cs of the 16th Guard Battalion fighting alongside Ikaruga and Maya during the final hours of the Battle of Kyoto, in 1998.
Type-82Cs were also part of a joint US-Japan combat trial on 18th August 1986, where an element of Type-82Cs, led by Iwaya Eiji, fought two F-15C Eagles. Despite pilot ingenuity on the part of the Imperial Japanese pilots, the battle demonstrated clearly the technological and power differences between 1st and 2nd generation TSFs, even if the former were to be given substantial upgrades.
- The Type-82 is named after the WWII Japanese aircraft carrier Zuikaku, as opposed to the weather-themed names of the Type-89/F-15J Kagerou, F-15SEJ Gekkou, Type-97 Fubuki, and Type-94 Shiranui.
- The F-4J Kai would mark the beginning of original designs for Japanese TSFs; the majority of subsequent domestic designs are not based off any real-world aircraft.
- The Zuikaiku's closest real-world equivalent is the F-4EJKai, an upgraded F-4EJ.
- ↑ 1.00 1.01 1.02 1.03 1.04 1.05 1.06 1.07 1.08 1.09 1.10 1.11 1.12 Integral Works, pg. 51, ８２式戦術歩行戦闘機 瑞鶴.
- ↑ Integral Works, pg. 229, 日本帝国斯衛軍.
- ↑ 3.0 3.1 MLA TSF Cross Operation Vol. 3, pg. 94, TSFIA #17: Colors of Duty
- ↑ MLA TSF Cross Operation Vol. 1, pg. 84-85, TSFIA #2: Dissimilar Air Combat Training