A Warm Welcome to J-HangarSpace!
A fine study of a Kawasaki T-4 from the 13th Flight Training Wing at Ashiya, Fukuoka Prefecture. Specially painted to mark the type’s 15-year association with the unit for the Ashiya air show in
November 2015, the year on the fuselage inscription was changed from 2015 to 2016 for the
aircraft’s appearances at two displays in December. (Photo source: JASDF Ashiya AB)
J-HangarSpace first slid open its doors on June 1, 2013, and the site already houses a wealth of detailed information on a wide range of Japanese aviation topics.
As you will notice from the navigation buttons to the left, the site is primarily devoted to subject matter from the 1950s onwards. Each section features, or will feature, information culled largely from Japanese-language sources, much of which will be appearing in English for the first time. Although some civil aviation topics are included, hangar space is at a premium and thus none is given over to airline operations.
Mindful that Japan’s three Self-Defence Forces commemorated their 60th anniversary in 2014, some emphasis is being placed on their formative years. Each SDF section contains a Where Are They Now? guide, providing information on and selected photos from the locations of surviving examples of withdrawn aircraft. A Where Are They Now? Guide by Prefecture is included at the end of the JMSDF page.
(Above and below) Around 60 years ago, the supply of U.S. aircraft to the three SDF services was in full swing. These photos were taken at Tateyama, Chiba Prefecture, on December 2, 1954, when a ceremony was held to mark the official handover of 10 Grumman TBM-3W2 Avengers and 12 North American SNJs to the nascent JMSDF. The event was covered by Sekai no Kōkūki (The World’s Aircraft), a monthly magazine that had been launched in 1951 but sadly was to cease publication in 1957.
(Photos from April 1955 issue of The World’s Aircraft used with permission of Hobun Shorin Co., Ltd.)
A rare photo of a JGSDF Stinson L-5A Sentinel. Assigned to the 4th District Air Unit at Ozuki, Yamaguchi Prefecture, this example was noted at Oita airfield, Oita Prefecture, on November 1, 1955, in the days when security was not a high priority. The JGSDF inherited a motley collection of around
35 L-5s in four variants from the National Police Reserve, but all had been retired by 1958.
(Photo: Takao Kadokami)
Each service has a page devoted to updates on its current aircraft programmes and projects. One click will ultimately also take site visitors from the homepage to squadron histories and markings or base histories, the latter including contact information. Planned for inclusion over the longer term are aircraft profiles that will focus on the design, development, and operation (including pilot perspectives) of selected indigenous types utilized by these services over the years.
As the Japan Coast Guard (JCG) has been more in the news of late, I will be building on the of necessity brief information I included some years ago in an article that appeared the UK magazine Air International. Again, the early days of JCG air operations are worthy of closer scrutiny.
Hardly surprisingly, the air operations of the Japanese prefectural police have received scant coverage overseas. The same can be said of the so-called parapublic operations conducted by fire and disaster prevention air units at the municipal and prefectural levels and the Doctor-Heli emergency medical services (EMS) network; this site will seek to redress the balance.
Historical content has thus far spotlighted Japan’s aviation museums, particularly those that have little or no English-language content. One aim here is to provide translations of exhibit information to make museum tours by overseas visitors that much more rewarding.
Further down the line (in my spare time!), I would hope to be able to add a dedicated page for frequent Japanese aviation news reports; a Bulletin Board follows as a temporary measure. Other exciting site features will be revealed nearer the time.
This is still very much a work in progress, so please bear with me while I continue to add meatier content to the “bare bones” of some sections. An overview of J-HangarSpace operations can be found at the foot of this page.
If you have any questions, comments or suggestions, please feel free to click on Contact and send me a completed form.
Thanks for your visit and keep watching this space!
Toda, Saitama Prefecture, Japan
J-HangarSpace Bulletin Board
JASDF Releases First Photos of F-35A
(August 15, 2016) The JASDF released two photos of the first of the four F-35A Lightning IIs scheduled to be delivered to the JASDF during the course of this fiscal year.
Taken at Lockheed-Martin’s Dallas-Fort Worth facility, both photos show aircraft “701” in a hangar after the completion of the assembly process. After its official handover, the aircraft will be used for pilot training at Luke AFB, Arizona.
X-2 Makes Maiden Flight
(April 22, 2016) The X-2 stealth technology demonstrator aircraft took to the skies for the first time this morning.
Having departed the Mitsubishi Komaki facility at Nagoya Airport, the aircraft landed around 30 minutes later at the JASDF test facility at Gifu AB.
The air-to-air photo shown above is included on the second page of a press release issued by the Ministry of Defense Acquisition Technology & Logistics Agency (ATLA) (link).
Information on the development of the X-2 can be found on the JASDF Aircraft Programmes page do this website (X-2).
Kate Displayed at Pacific Aviation Museum Pearl Harbor
(Photo: Pacific Aviation Museum Pearl Harbor)
(April 19, 2016) Major parts of a 1939-vintage Imperial Japanese Naval Air Force aircraft that possibly took part in the attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on December 7, 1941, have been placed on display at a poignant location.
The wing and a section of fuselage of a Nakajima Type 97 Carrier-Borne Attack Aircraft (B5N2, Kate) have arrived at the non-profit Pacific Aviation Museum Pearl Harbor on historic Ford Island, where the first bombs fell that day. Work has already begun in the museum’s hangar-based restoration shop that is named after Lt. Ted Shealy, whose career spent maintaining U. S. Navy aircraft covered the full gamut, from the biplane fighters of the mid-1930s to the F-4 Phantoms of the 1960s.
Museum Executive Director Kenneth DeHoff and his team expect that it will take five years of painstaking restoration work to produce an aircraft of static display quality. More photos of the aircraft (link) and additional information on the museum’s collection and activities can be found by visiting the museum’s website (link).
(Photo: Pacific Aviation Museum Pearl Harbor)
According to the Pacific Wrecks website (link), the aircraft was one of those abandoned in New Britain (now part of Papua New Guinea) at the end of the war and came to Hawaii, via Australia and New Zealand, in 2011.
On the subject of the remnants of the 1,149 B5Ns built, J-HangarSpace coincidentally paid a visit last month (March 2016) to the Wings Museum, which is located close to Gatwick Airport in England.
The remains of the Kate at the Wings Museum in southeast England form part of
its Ghosts of the Tundra exhibit. In the background is a section of wing from an Imperial
Japanese Army Air Force Nakajima Ki-43 (Oscar) fighter, also found in the Kuril Islands.
Although not displaying any complete aircraft, the museum does have a number of large sections of remains displayed in full-size dioramas that replicate the conditions in which the wrecks were found. Built in December 1942, the assemblies of the collection’s Type 97 Model 12 (B5N2) were recovered in 2003 from a remote site on Shumshu Island, one of the Kuril Island chain that extends north from Hokkaido toward the Kamchatka Peninsula in eastern Russia. Invaded by the then Soviet Union in the final stages of World War II in 1945, Japan and Russia remain in dispute over the sovereignty of four of the islands.
JAA’s Aviation Heritage Archive Publishes Latest Book
(Apr. 11, 2016) Although J-HangarSpace does not normally include coverage of airline operations, an exception can be made in announcing J-BIRD: Japanese Aircraft Register 1921–1945, the stunning latest book release from the Aviation Heritage Archive at the Japan Aeronautic Association. The cover photo shows an Atlantic Aircraft-built Fokker Super Universal that was operated from Osaka by Japan Air Transport Co., Ltd. in the 1930s; the man’s identity is unknown. A review of this work, which represents the culmination of around 20 years of information gathering, can be found on the Aviation Books: Japanese Language/Historical section on the Magazines/Books page (link).
Photo Treasure Trove
While a 4th Aviation Squadron OH-6J sits seemingly ignored, people eagerly queue for the chance
to climb into a Western Army Helicopter Squadron UH-1H during an open day event at
JGSDF Beppu Army Camp, Oita Prefecture, in August 1979. (Photo: Takao Kadokami)
The above image is typical of the large number kindly made available to J-HangarSpace by aviation photographer Takao Kadokami. Some are featured in the recently (April 2016) uploaded initial version of the JGSDF Squadron Histories page of this website. Being a long-term resident of Oita City enabled him to capture on camera many of the aviation events in that part of Japan. Thanks are also due to Akira Watanabe for providing photos from his extensive colour photograph collection.
Japan Coast Guard Orders Sixth Super Puma
On March 14, 2016, Airbus Helicopters announced that it had signed a contract with the Japan Coast Guard (JCG) for the purchase of an additional H225. Already operating five H225s, the JCG has ordered this additional aircraft as part of its fleet renewal plans. The helicopter is scheduled for delivery by the end of 2018.
(Photo: Japan Coast Guard)
This H225 will be equipped with the most advanced search and rescue mission systems and operated in security enforcement and territorial sea guard duties as well as on disaster relief missions.
Blue Impulse Encounters Ground-Level Turbulence
Having in 2015 marked the 20th anniversary of its formation as the 11th Squadron on the Kawasaki T-4, the JASDF Blue Impulse aerobatic display team flew into some turbulence in the form of local protests prior to commencing the 2016 season at the Komaki AB Open House on March 13.
As reported in the Asahi Shimbun, representatives from the local city communities of Kasugai and Komaki as well as the town of Toyoyama called for the display over their densely populated areas to be cancelled. City council and residents’ meetings in Kasugai had expressed their absolute opposition, and Kasugai Mayor Futoshi Itō described the decision to go ahead with the display without the full backing of the populace as “extremely regrettable”.
Positioned as a symbol of Japan’s recovery from the Great East Japan Earthquake, the six-member team performed a full routine that at around 25 minutes was longer than that last year, when voices against a display had been heard for the first time in the team’s 44-year history. The number of spectators at this year’s Komaki event reportedly decreased by 7,000, to 66,000.
The team has been the butt of complaints before. Apparently, the smoke used in the display was changed to white following claims that dye from the coloured smoke had fallen onto people’s cars.
Looking back at the team’s safety record, an F-86F pilot was killed in a training accident on November 24, 1965. During its T-2 era, the team lost two pilots in an overwater training accident in July 1991, but an accident at the Hamamatsu airshow, on November 14, 1982, claimed the life of the pilot and injured 11 people on the ground, some of them severely. In a tragic coincidence, on the ninth anniversary of the T-2 training crash in 2000 the team lost three T-4 pilots when two aircraft flew into high ground.
From the airframe age viewpoint, the team’s T-4s might be more than 20 years old, but they are likely still some way from replacement. In the absence of the necessary data on the ages of individual aircraft, the following table is intended as a general guide by comparing the Blue Impulse with the latest re-equipment cycles of six other major teams.
|2009||USAF Thunderbirds (F-16C-32 to F-16C-52 Fighting Falcon)|
|1995||JASDF Blue Impulse (T-2 to T-4)|
|1986||U.S. Navy Blue Angels (A-4F Skyhawk II to F/A-18A Hornet) (Note 1)|
|1982||Italian Air Force Frecce Tricolori (G.91PAN to MB-339PAN) (Note 2)|
|1981||French Air Force Patrouille de France (Fouga Magister to Alpha Jet)|
|1979||Royal Air Force Red Arrows (Gnat T.1 to Hawk T.1)|
|1971||Royal Canadian AF Snowbirds (newly formed on CT-114 Tutor) (Note 3)|
(Note 1) Having suffered two instances of structural panels “escaping” from Blue Angels aircraft in flight in 2015, the U.S. Navy announced in early December that it had started the process to re-equip the team with the Super Hornet.
(Note 2) Due to convert to the M-345HET for the 2017 season.
(Note 3) Already out of production for five years when first adopted, the Tutor is scheduled to remain the Snowbirds mount until 2020.
As the JASDF prepares to enter its F-35 era, it remains to be seen what the plans are, first, to make the T-4 more compatible with a fifth-generation aircraft and, second, with regard to replacement. In February 2016, the Japan Ministry of Defense’s Acquisition, Technology & Logistics Agency placed two contracts with Kawasaki, covering upgrades and maintenance to a T-4 used for research and to two Blue Impulse aircraft, respectively, for delivery early in 2018.
Flying Swallow Comes Home to Roost
Located on a site steeped in aviation history and serving essentially as a repository for all things connected to Kawasaki aircraft, the Kakamigahara Aerospace Science Museum in Gifu Prefecture is one of the major facilities of its kind in Japan.
First opened on March 23, 1996, plans for a major refurbishment will be finalized this summer. Draft plans aired in September 2015 allowed for construction to take 18 months from around September this year. Hopeful of periods of partial opening within that time, the local authorities and the museum management are aiming to fully re-open in March 2018. In anticipation of its playing a pivotal role in that momentous event, a long-lost son in the form of a Kawasaki Hien (Flying Swallow) fighter has itself been undergoing restoration at the place of its birth.
The Hien currently undergoing restoration is seen here during its time on display at Yokota AB, at some stage after the red bar was added to the U.S. insignia in January 1947. Sand was placed in the tyres and, although the cockpit was open to the elements, oil painted on key areas to keep rust at bay.
Another photo, taken from a different angle, appeared in No. 4 of the Famous Aircraft of the World series in 1967. (Photo: KOKU-FAN/BUNRINDO Co., Ltd.)
Taken at Yokota AB, Tokyo, in 1947, the above photo shows what was to be the sole Kawasaki Ki-61 Hien fighter to survive the war and remain in Japan. Having been displayed for nearly 30 years at the Peace Museum for Kamikaze Pilots in Chiran, Kagoshima Prefecture, the aircraft was transported back for restoration at its birthplace in Gifu in early September 2015 and for display at the Kakamigahara Aerospace Science Museum from this autumn. (More images can be found in Issue 181 of Japanese-language Kawasaki News [link] and detailed close-ups in the March 2016 issue of Model Art.) A feature at the start of the Aviation Museums page of this website includes details of the aircraft’s restoration and its previous peripatetic existence.
LR-1 Bows Out
(Photo: JGSDF Kisarazu)
(Feb. 15, 2016) A ceremony held at JGSDF Kisarazu marked the end of an era and the disappearance, after nearly 50 years, of an aircraft type what was once a familiar sight in the skies over Japan.
As reported in Bouei News (Defense News) on March 1, the service’s last active LR-1 (22019) had notched up around 7,490 flying hours and, in the space of 18 years of service in Okinawa, been flown on 340 medevac sorties.
The JGSDF received a total of 20 examples of the Mitsubishi LR-1, the militarized version of the dumpy MU-2 (Mitsubishi Utility-2) business turboprop. Having completed its maiden flight on May 11, 1967, the first LR-1 was delivered two months later, on July 10. It was not until March 10, 1971, that the second example flew, but from then singletons of the type bearing the Mitsubishi company designation MU-2B were drip fed to the service; the last was handed over in 1984. (In the meantime, Mitsubishi produced a total of 703 civil MU-2s in 13 different versions from 1966 to 1986.)
Since the 1999 arrival of the first of the replacement Raytheon (Beechcraft) Super King Air 350-based LR-2s, the LR-1’s withdrawal from service has been equally protracted. By mid-2014, only three were left in service, and one of those was being used as an instructional airframe, so the writing was then already clearly on the wall.
Although overshadowed by the higher profile YS-11 turboprop airliner, the MU-2 served as an icon of Japan’s postwar aviation industry. The role for which the LR-1 became best known to the general public was in the airlifting to hospital of people living on remote islands who were in need of urgent medical attention. The last of the four tragic accidents that befell LR-1s occurred on February 17, 1990, when an aircraft crashed into the sea off Miyako Island, Okinawa Prefecture, at night in poor weather conditions. The crew had been arriving to collect the victim of a road traffic accident.
The LR-1 was used to train pilots at the aviation branch school at JGSDF Utsunomiya from 1973 to 2012. Although based in Okinawa until May 2010, prior to being assigned to the 1st Helicopter Brigade at Kisarazu, “last man standing” 22019 made an hour-long sayonara visit to Utsunomiya on February 10 for a final decommissioning dress rehearsal, in recognition of the type’s many years of sterling service there. As reported in the following day’s online version of the local newspaper, the Shimotsuke Shimbun, among the more than 100-strong welcoming committee was a former flight instructor. Now 69 years old, Tsuyoshi Akasaka had come to bid a fond farewell to an aircraft he had flown right up to the time of his own retirement and that, in his words, had been like a son to him. (This particular aircraft’s long association with Okinawa had already resulted in another LR-1 being painted with a fake 22019 serial and placed on display after the real 22019’s departure at the end of LR-1 operations in the region.)
And so the stage was set for the aircraft to take a final bow at Kisarazu on February 15. As is standard procedure, the scene was set by speeches, in this case given by the commander of the 1st Helicopter Brigade, Major General Yūsuke Tajiri, who made mention of the type’s key medevac and natural disaster reconnaissance roles, and a retired pilot who had been in the first fixed-wing pilot course intake to fly the LR-1.
The final LR-1 crew runs through the engine startup procedures one last time. (Photo: JGSDF Kisarazu)
It was then the aircraft’s turn to take centre stage. Taken aloft for a final few minutes, 22019 was brought around for a sedate, straight and level flypast before the assembled throng of JGSDF personnel, both past and present, and Mitsubishi representatives. Upon its return, the engines were shut down for the final time and a wreath placed on the aircraft’s nose.
The Kisarazu event was covered by the programme Sakimori no Michi NEXT (link) broadcast on the SakuraSoTV channel, “Japan’s first history and culture station,” and made available on YouTube. The 17-minute segment on the last flight ceremony starts around eight minutes into the programme, which follows a recruitment commercial for the “Japan Goround Self-Defense-Force” (sic) that features footage taken inside a CH-47.
The LR-1 engine startup sequence is covered from around the 11:30 mark, after the speeches from the 1st Helicopter Brigade commander and a Mr. Nomura, the retired pilot who was in the first fixed-wing pilot course intake. After providing footage of the last flight, the report ends by conducting interviews with the crew and with a Colonel Satō, the commander of the brigade’s Liaison and Reconnaissance Flight.
Presumably, 22019 will now join the VIP-configured KV-107IIA-4 in store at Kisarazu and be aired at base events.
While I Was Away
Every year, work enforces periods of absence from the hangar. During that time in 2015, I was happy to once again assist Japanese aviation historian Kōji Yanagisawa in telling the story of two intrepid aviators who flew a Japanese-designed biplane from Tokyo to Rome in 1931. Aptly enough, the article appears in Issue 14 of The Aviation Historian. A superbly designed and executed quarterly magazine for the discerning reader of more offbeat topics, TAH more than lives up to the wording trumpeted on the cover: The modern journal of classic aeroplanes and the history of flying.
A banner link to the TAH website appears in the right-hand Notices column of this homepage.
During the course of 2015, J-HangarSpace compiled a roundup of site-relevant content carried in the major Japanese aviation magazines. In 2016, selected titles will be added to the existing “e-cupboard” of book reviews. These two sections are separated by access information for the Japan Aeronautic Association (JAA) library in Tokyo. Visitors’ attention is also drawn to the Bookstall carousel of recommended reading at the foot of this homepage.
Kindly provided by well-known aviation photographer and historian William T. “Bill” Larkins, this shot shows a lineup of factory-fresh, JASDF-bound Beech T-34A Mentors at Oakland Airport, California, in October 1954. A view from another angle, on the Early SDF History chronology page,
reveals a surprising fact about these aircraft.
(A true aviation photography veteran, Bill Larkins has photographed for posterity thousands of aircraft that have graced the skies, airfields and airports of his native California. [link])
(All photographs on this website are copyright J-HangarSpace
unless otherwise stated.)
Every August, the Zero Fighter Museum (Kawaguchiko Aviation Hall) in Yamanashi Prefecture offers the general public a time-limited chance to check on the status of its restoration projects and other treasures. J-HangarSpace’s report focuses on the collection’s unique restored/reverse-engineered fuselage of
a Mitsubishi G4M2 Betty bomber.
Of all the displays at the JGSDF Public Information Center at Kasumigaura Army Camp in Ibaraki Prefecture, perhaps the most fascinating are those covering its time as an Imperial Japanese Naval Air Force (IJNAF) base.
The June 2014 addition to the Aviation Museum page reveals more.
Location Report 6 was from the 2014 Spring Festival at the U.S. Naval Air Facility (NAF) Atsugi. There J-HangarSpace was able to photograph Kawasaki P-1
patrol aircraft on the ground and, an added bonus, in the air.
In February 2014, the museum collection at Mitsubishi Heavy Industries’ Komaki South Plant became the fifth to be visited by J-HangarSpace. Among the gems on display are a restored J8M1 Shusui interceptor and A6M5 Zero Type 52 fighter.
Recognize this engine? J-HangarSpace’s fourth aviation museum report came from the collection entrusted to Mitsu Seiki Co., Ltd., a company that has carved itself several
niches in the precision engineering industry from its base in Awaji, Hyogo Pefecture.
One of the JMSDF’s two remaining ShinMaywa US-1A rescue amphibians returned to its birthplace for the last time in February 2014. J-HangarSpace was present to witness two days of test flying that involved takeoffs and landings at sea
for Location Report 4.
To mark the 60th anniversary of Japan’s Self-Defense Forces, J-HangarSpace conducted a census of retired SDF aircraft. See the end of the JGSDF Where Are They Now? page for details of two early results from the census.
(Photos: CROSSLAND OYABE [above], Herb World Akita [below])
J-HangarSpace’s last feature of 2013 covered a special exhibition at the well-known Tokyo home of a Mitsubishi Zero fighter, the National Museum of Nature and Science in Ueno Park. Part of the Japan Aeronautic Association’s centenary celebrations, the exhibition showcased some fascinating memorabilia and evocative images from bygone eras of Japanese civil aviation.
This JMSDF ShinMaywa US-1A rescue amphibian was one of 50 aircraft that took part in the flypast at the 2013 SDF Review ceremony. See Location Report 3
for more details.
Kumazo Hino steps out of Yoshitoshi Tokugawa’s shadow in J-HangarSpace’s debut Japanese aviation history topic (here). The article reports from the monument to the
two men instrumental in sowing the seeds of Japanese aviation development by
being the first to fly heavier-than-air machines in the country.
Overview of J-HangarSpace Feature Operations
Temporarily under tarp in corner: Tokorozawa Aviation Museum guide
Parts in process: The run-up to and early days of the Self-Defense Forces
Sample JGSDF/JMSDF base histories
|Apr.||Interim JGSDF Squadron Histories page uploaded|
|Mar.||SDF Orders of Battle pages updated|
|Feb.||JCG says sayonara to its final Bell 212 (see Aircraft Data File)|
|Feature on Hien restoration project added, combined with news of Kakamigahara Aerospace Science Museum refurbishment plans|
|Jan.||Aircraft programmes updated|
|Dec.||Magazines/Books page updated|
|June||Fifth JMSDF base history (Kanoya) added|
|Feb.||Japan Coast Guard Aircraft Data File (Ver1.0) added|
|Jan||Sample JASDF base histories (Akita, Ashiya) added|
|Magazines/Books page launched|
|Dec.||Principal JASDF fighter squadron histories/markings added|
|Nov.||Museum Visit 7: Zero Fighter Museum (Kawaguchiko Aviation Hall)|
|June||Where Are They Now? by prefecture guide added (here)|
|Museum Visit 6: JGSDF Kasumigaura Public Information Center|
|May||Location Report 7: Japan Ministry of Defense, Tokyo|
|JMSDF Aircraft Profiles/Nose to Tail photos: Kawasaki P-1|
|Location Report 6: U.S. NAF Atsugi (Kawasaki P-1)|
|Apr.||Location Report 5: Cherry Blossom Festival, Kumagaya AB|
|Displayed Aircraft Special Report 2: Herb World Akita’s UH-1H|
|Report from MHI/Nagoya Aerospace Systems’ Komaki Plant museum|
|Mar.||Report from Mitsu Seiki museum collection, Awaji, Hyogo Prefecture|
|Location Report 4: ShinMaywa Industries, Ltd., Kobe (US-1A)|
|Feb.||Displayed Aircraft Special Report 1: Crossland Oyabe’s KV-107II|
|Dec.||Special report from National Museum of Nature & Science, Tokyo|
|Nov.||Chronology of Events (Ver 1.0) added to Early SDF History page|
|Oct.||Location Report 3: SDF Review ceremony, Asaka|
|Report on preserved Fuji T-1B added to Aviation Museums (see above)|
|Prototype Japanese Aviation History article (see above) completed|
|Sept.||Location Report 2: Gunma Heliport, Maebashi|
|Report from Tokyo Fire Museum filed under Aviation Museums|
|Location Report 1: ShinMaywa Industries, Ltd., Kobe (US-2)|