On November of 1960, the Japanese government announced that it would acquire the Starfighter as its standard air superiority fighter. An industrial cartel headed by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries was given the responsibility for the license manufacture of the Starfighter in Japan. The first few Japanese Starfighters would be assembled in Japan from Lockheed-supplied components, but ultimately the Starfighter would be built in Japan entirely from Japanese- manufactured components.
The Japanese Starfighter was given the designation F-104J, the J standing for Japan. It was similar in overall structure to the F-104G, but was equipped as an all-weather interceptor rather than as an air-to-ground strike aircraft. One of the reasons for the choice of this option was that treaty restrictions at the time prevented Japan from acquiring any aircraft which had even a hint of an offensive role.
The F-104J was powered by a Japanese-built J79-IHI-11A engine built under license by Ishikawajima-Harima. It had an Autonetics NASARR F-15J-31 fire control system optimized for the air-to-air mode, and was armed with a 20-mm M61A1 cannon and four AIM-9 Sidewinder air-to-air missiles, two mounted underwing and two carried on a rack on the fuselage centerline.
The first Lockheed-built F-104J (Model 683-07-14) flew on June 30, 1961. The first three F-104Js were built and assembled entirely by Lockheed. 29 more F-104Js were assembled by Mitsubishi from knocked-down kits provided by Lockheed between March of 1962 and March of 1965. Further F-104Js were built from scratch by Mitsubishi, with a total of 178 Mitsubishi-manufactured F-104Js being delivered from March of 1965 through 1967.
The F-104DJ (Model 583B-10-17) was the two-seat trainer version of the F-104J for Japan. The F-104DJ had electronics and other items that were compatible with those of the single-seat version. Twenty examples were built by Lockheed and reassembled in Japan between July of 1962 and January 1964. No F-104DJ two-seaters were built from scratch in Japan.
The F-104J entered service with the Koku Jietai (Japanese Air Self Defense Force, or JASDF) in October of 1966. The first JASDF units to convert to the F-104J were the 201st and 202nd Fighter Interceptor Squadrons (Hiko-tais) based at Chitose and Nyutabaru. The two hundred and ten F-104Js and the twenty F-104DJ operational trainers were used exclusively in the interceptor role by seven Hiko-tais (the 201st to 207th) of the Koku Jieitai.
Beginning in December of 1981, the Japanese Starfighters were replaced by Mitsubishi-built F-15J/F-15DJ Eagles. The last JASDF F-104J was retired by the 207th Hiko-tai in March of 1986. During JASDF service, at least 34 F-104Js and two F-104DJs (about 15 percent of the force) were written off in accidents.
As JASDF F-104Js were retired, some were transferred to Taiwan. By 1987, the RoCAF had received at least 22 F-104Js and five F-104DJs through the "ALISAN 9" project. Many of the Japanese F-104s were eventually converted to drones for aerial target practice.
Units of the JASDF flying F-104J
16-5001/5009 Lockheed-built F-104DJ Starfighter c/n 583B-5401/5409 16-5006 to Taiwan as 4593 26-8501/8503 Lockheed-built F-104J Starfighter c/n 683B-3001/3003 26-8504/8507 Mitsubishi-built F-104J Starfighter c/n 683B-3004/3007 36-5010/5020 Lockheed-built F-104DJ Starfighter c/n 583B-5410/5420 36-5017 to Taiwan as 4595 36-8508/8563 Mitsubishi-built F-104J Starfighter c/n 683B-3008/3063 36-8508 to Taiwan as 4509 36-8514 to Taiwan as 4521 36-8531 to Taiwan as 4503 36-8554 to Taiwan as 4504 36-8555 to Taiwan as 4506 46-8564/8658 Mitsubishi-built F-104J Starfighter c/n 683B-3064/3158 46-8577 to Taiwan as 4510 46-8582 to Taiwan as 4511 46-8596 to Taiwan as 4522 46-8611 to Taiwan as 4505. Collided in midair with RoCAF F-104G 4319/62-12261 Dec 9, 1989. Pilot of 4505 ejected but pilot of 4319 was killed. 46-8612 to Taiwan as 4501 46-8616 to Taiwan as 4515 46-8619 to Taiwan as 4516 56-8659/8680 Mitsubishi-built F-104J Starfighter c/n 683B-3159/3180 76/8681/8710 Mitsubishi-built F-104J Starfighter c/n 683B-3181/3210