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JASDF Gears Up for Air Shows

(Photo: TakaMax55 via Twitter @vmax55531)

(April 2022) After a long hiatus due to obvious reasons, JASDF bases are making tentative plans to stage at least some sort of air show season this year.

The schedule is beginning to fill up, one of the latest additions at the time of writing being Misawa on September 11, announced by the 3rd Air Wing and base commander Maj. Gen. Takahiro Kubota on April 25.

In recent months, bases have restricted those events that have been held to, for example, runway walks open only to limited numbers of residents of that prefecture. Planning to hold its own runway walk event for 350 people on April 28, Ashiya has scheduled an air show limited to 10,000 spectators for September 4 to belatedly celebrate its 60th anniversary, which fell last year.

Ad for Ashiya Runway Walk (Image: JASDF Ashiya AB via Twitter @jasdf_ashiya)

Two training base air shows that traditionally take place in the spring/early summer schedule, Shizuhama and Hofu-Kita are planned to go ahead from 09:00 on May 22 and June 5, respectively.

The former is billing its event as a “small air show at a small air base” and warning that if people come expecting a lively event, they will likely go home disappointed. When it comes to anti-COVID measures, Shizuhama is also naturally ensuring that all the bases are covered. To encourage visitors to keep their masks on, smoking will be banned and no designated areas for eating or drinking or stands selling food will be provided (soft drinks will be on sale to prevent heatstroke). To avoid crowding, there will be no ground displays. The decision has also been taken to curtail proceedings at 11:30. The impression the organizers wish to give is for local residents to stop by Shizuhama AB and just take a pleasant stroll in the “park”.

Shizuhama, May 2012

Hoping to at least feature a Blue Impulse display from a remote location, Hofu-Kita’s semi-open house is scheduled to run from 09:00 to 15:00, as normal. However, the event is open only to 10,000 winners of a lottery, the time-limited applications for which have to be submitted on the type of postcard that has a reply card attached. Those from outside the prefecture who wish to attend are requested “to act in consideration of the government’s basic policy and in response to any requests from their prefectural governments”. At a cost of 10,000 yen per person, 22 socially distanced seats in two photo galleries facing the runway are to be made available atop the base operations building; a telephoto lens length restriction of 70 cm applies.

(Photo: JASDF)

Once the event-starved locals are allowed off the leash, it could well be that the air shows held close to major conurbations (Gifu, Komaki and especially Iruma) will be even less for the faint-hearted and best avoided until the novelty has worn off.

(Photo: Stone via Twitter @stone15DJ)

Doctor-Heli Operations Go Nationwide

The Shikoku Air Service BK117C-1 with which Doctor-Heli services are conducted in
Kagawa lands on the helipad at Kagawa Prefectural Central Hospital in Takamatsu.

(Photo: Kagawa Prefecture)

(April 2022) From this month, the emergency medical service coverage provided by the Doctor-Heli network has been available across all of Japan.

From its humble beginnings in Okayama Prefecture 21 years ago, the last pieces of the Doctor-Heli jigsaw were put in place when Tokyo itself and Kagawa Prefecture were added over the last month. Nationwide coverage had been the goal since a special measures law was enacted in June 2007.

Based at Tachikawa when on call, the Hirata Gakuen Aviation BK117D-2 JA903H was that
initially assigned to the new Tokyo operation.

(Photo [Tokyo Heliport, March 2022]: ゴマ鯖via Twitter @bousai2022)

Coordinated from the Tokyo Fire Department Aviation Unit’s Tama Aviation Center, operations on the Tokyo Metropolitan Government’s behalf were commenced by Hirata Gakuen Aviation in the Tama area of the city on March 31, 2022. The participating hospital is the Kyorin University Hospital in Mitaka in collaboration with Tokyo Medical University’s Hachijo Medical Center and the Tokyo Metropolitan Tama Medical Center.

Operational cover is provided from 08:45 to sunset. A total of three locations in the city of Fussa, a sports facility and two baseball fields, have been registered as rendezvous points, where patients are transferred from an ambulance to a helicopter.

Introduced into service in 2006, the Shikoku Air Service BK117C-1 with which full Kagawa ops
were inaugurated sits at Takamatsu Airport without titles in October 2021. A familiar local
sight, the aircraft’s nose and clamshell rear doors had previously been adorned with
Anpanman (Bean Bun Man) children’s cartoon characters (link).
(Photo: だいきち via Twitter @DAISAN87922715)

Prefecture-wide operations commenced in Kagawa on April 18. Kagawa Prefectural Central Hospital in Takamatsu and Kagawa University Hospital in Miki Town are the designated facilities on alternate weeks for operations that, weather permitting, run from 08:30 to 17:30 or sunset, whichever comes first.

Geographically compact Kagawa Prefecture is blessed with a high ratio of paved roads. In 2006, the average ambulance transport time was 25.2 minutes, the shortest in Japan. As patients became more advanced in years, it took longer to ascertain symptoms, and the time spent at the scene became longer. The transportation time for 2018 was 35.4 minutes, ranking 10th in the nation.

Kagawa Prefecture formed an introduction review committee in July 2019, and in January 2020 its report included the annual demand forecast estimate of 243 people, 11 patients whose lives would be saved by the helicopter’s introduction, and 17 patients whose after-effects would be alleviated. To make operational preparations in good time, Takamatsu-based Shikoku Air Service was appointed as outsourced operator and maintenance provider in December 2020.

In December 2021, classroom training such as pre-boarding safety education was conducted for candidates, and in January of this year, medical personnel boarding training and heliport departure and arrival training were conducted at base hospitals using actual equipment.

The tape-cutting ceremony takes place at Takamatsu Airport on April 17, the day before the
official start of operations.
(Photo: NHK Takamatsu via Twitter @nhk_takamatsu)

Kagawa Prefecture has allocated 245.5 million yen as the operating cost for the first year. While negotiating with related parties aiming for around 200 emergency takeoff and landing sites in the prefecture, 16 doctor candidates and 27 nurse candidates are undergoing practical training to secure and maintain the services of six to eight specialized doctors and eight nurses.

Lone Starfighter Blues

(Above) Already in around its 18th year of service, the eighth JASDF F-104DJ caught in flight,
adorned in the camouflage worn long before and during the 207th Sqn’s participation in the
1983 TAC Meet at Komatsu, and
(below) with its rusty wheels firmly on the ground at
its “retirement home” of an astounding 36 years in Seiyo, Ehime Prefecture.

(Photo: [Top] KORIEL via Twitter @FEFE2F801F90FM2;
[above, March 2022] Jumbo via Twitter @yosakoi_747)

(March 2022) In a recent post, Twitter contributor “Jumbo” urged those interested in seeing a Starfighter displayed in open-air solitary confinement in a rural part of Ehime Prefecture to best make that visit soon.

One of only four more or less complete survivors in Japan of the 20 two-seat Starfighters originally supplied, this example somehow ended up being put out to pasture close to a farmer training centre and beside the Shirokawa Sports Park in the town of the same name, which since 2004 has formed part of the city of Seiyo. Since 2021, the local authorities have been giving consideration to the removal of an aircraft that was provided on free loan to the site where it has languished since May 1986 but is now likely seen as something of an eyesore that reflects badly on the city. Back in 2009, a city spokesman said that the aircraft was being cleaned up to twice a year to no effect, but in a sign of its impending demise, even those efforts appear to have been abandoned.

Delivered to the JASDF on June 3, 1964, F-104DJ 46-5008 was based at Hyakuri when this photo (link) was taken in June 1966.

The aircraft was still based at Hyakuri with the 204th Sqn when photographed in the company of
a sister aircraft from the 205th Sqn in 1969.
(Photo: Akio Misawa)

Another photo of 008 in the tactical camouflage scheme of the type applied to F-1s and
reconnaissance Phantoms. It was in August 1982 that the aircraft was noted as here
carrying the names of its ground crew,
side of the engine intake, next to what appear to be their rank insignia. The
aircraft was kept in camouflage for the TAC Meet in November 1983.

(Photo: KORIEL via Twitter @FEFE2F801F90FM2)

Following its withdrawal from service when with the then Naha-based 207th Sqn in November 1984, the aircraft was likely flown to Gifu AB, which served as the collection point for retired Starfighters. It was as early as May 1986 when the aircraft was placed out in the fresh air of the park in Ehime, joining ex-JGSDF L-19E-1 11202 and UH-1B 41548, which had been present since February 1987 and March 1988, respectively. The JGSDF aircraft had both been removed by 2006, leaving the Starfighter to maintain its lone vigil.

From nose to tail, the aircraft has for some time been in what Japanese would call boroboro (tatty)
condition. The rusty steps up to the cockpit are superfluous as the canopy has deteriorated and
reportedly clouded to such an extent that precious little of the interior, from which
most of the instruments have already been removed, can be seen.

(Photos [March 2022]: Jumbo via Twitter @yosakoi_747)

For the many unable to make the journey to in effect pay their last respects, this undated YouTube video (link) places you right there, when the aircraft was in somewhat better condition (circa 2015). The sign in front of the aircraft, near to where the pitot tube should be, politely but belatedly (and literally pointlessly) asks visitors not to touch the tip of the aircraft’s nose, because this could break. As in the photo above, the information on the stone plaque is unreadable.

This page from the recommended hikokikumo website (link) shows that the F-104DJ’s condition remained stable from 2003 and 2015 and provides images for posterity of the site’s two former JGSDF residents. Other fine photos from a January 2018 walk around of “the only F-104DJ on Shikoku” can be found here (link).

Parting shot. On occasion, as now, the aircraft has been partially roped off, but ropes offer no
defence against the ravages of the weather and time, which have taken their toll. A trick of
the light on the red blank in the jet pipe provides a defiant afterburner effect.

(Photo [March 2022]: Jumbo via Twitter @yosakoi_747)

Komaki Holds PR/Recruitment Event

(Photo: ぬまけん via Twitter @nmkn20021121)

(March 7, 2022) After three years still not yet in the position to stage its annual air show at this time of year, Komaki AB yesterday became the latest JASDF air base to hold a low-key open house event instead.

(Image from Twitter feed @komaki_airbase)

Restricted to the first 1,000 to reply to an advertisement posted on the base’s website and Twitter feed in early January, the event was open to children from elementary school age and above and adults up to 31 years of age. No restriction was placed on the ages of those accompanying children, but a maximum of two members from the same family was permitted. Also on offer was the chance to enter a lottery and be one of 400 to experience being on board a KC-130H that was to shuttle-taxy back and forth along the runway. To avoid crowding, the event’s duration was the same as that of an air show, from 09:00 to 15:00.

Those lucky enough to be among the chosen few were afforded rare opportunities to photograph
Komaki’s resident aircraft in relaxed, uncrowded settings far removed from what
would be the norm on an air show day.

(Photos: [top, KC-767 flight deck] ヤマさんvia Twitter @yamasan0802;
[above, U-125A] Yuma via Twitter @nkn787)

JASDF F-35As Make Naha, Hamamatsu Debuts

(Photo [Naha AB, Mar. 1, 2022]: うみ via Twitter @seaoka)

(February 28 to March 4, 2022) The F-35A Lightning II made its debut at Naha when two aircraft each from the 301st and 302nd TFSs arrived for an extended four-day training exercise on the afternoon of February 28.

Outbound, the quartet staged though Nyutabaru, which had been visited by U.S. Marine Corps F-35Bs in November 2017 and is destined to be the base for the JASDF’s own carrier-capable F-35Bs.

Hamamatsu briefly hosted the aircraft when they transited through the base on their return
to Misawa on the morning of March 4.

(Photos: [top] teamHAMAMATSU via Twitter @HamamatsuTeam;
[above] natsumi via Twitter @natsumi_TA1002)

It was November 2021 when eight 302nd TFS aircraft were sent on an extended visit to Komatsu AB, which is scheduled to receive its first four examples of the type in fiscal 2025 and have 20 F-35As based there in FY2028.

The light reflecting from a snowbound Misawa, one of the 302nd TFS pair returns home after
its winter break.
(Photo [Mar. 4, 2022]: ゆきいち@falcon via Twitter @falcon82801212)

Third Clutch of Ospreys Arrives

(Photo: U.S. Marine Corps/Lance Cpl Calah Thompson)

(February 23, 2022) The pair of Ospreys that make up the third JGSDF delivery were today offloaded from the company-operated vehicles carrier Green Lake at Iwakuni.

The first pair that arrived in May 2020 having been followed by five more aircraft in January 2021, these represent the eighth and ninth aircraft of the total order for 17.

JMSDF’s 70th Anniversary Plans

One of the latest vessels to join the JMSDF’s ranks, the Maya-class destroyer
Haguro was commissioned in March 2021.
(Photo: JMSDF Kagoshima Provincial Cooperation Office via Twitter @kagoshima_pco)

(February 7, 2022) Taking the date of its formation as being August 1952, when its predecessor the Maritime Guard came into existence, the JMSDF will this year be marking its Platinum Jubilee.

The service intends to make a big splash by holding in November Japan’s first international fleet review in 20 years. In October 2002, 41 vessels from 11 countries gathered in Tokyo Bay, and ships were moored for visits at Harumi (Tokyo), Kisarazu, Yokohama and Yokosuka. The event was even marked by the release of a commemorative postage stamp.

(Image: JMSDF)

Having already released its official 70th anniversary logo (above), the JMSDF is calling for designs for a review logo to be submitted by the general public. It can be expected that these logos will be appearing on some JMSDF aircraft in due course.

(Photo: JMSDF Yokosuka Regional Headquarters via Twitter @jmsdf_yrh)

Two-Week Search for Two Missing Pilots

(Photo [location unknown, posted Feb. 6, 2022]: JMSDF Public Affairs Office
via Twitter @JMSDF_PAO)

(February 2022) On the evening of January 31, reports came in that an F-15DJ belonging to the Tactical Fighter Training Group had disappeared off radar screens soon after takeoff from its Komatsu base. The aircraft was the last of a formation of four that had departed, despite weather conditions having been less than ideal, on a routine training mission.

The website of the local newspaper, The Hokkoku Shimbun, contained reports from eyewitnesses. One had thought that the red glow and the column of smoke rising from the surface of the sea had been caused by a tanker explosion, another had thought the cause was possibly even a wayward North Korean missile test.

The incident occurred at around 17:30, and some tiger-striped floating debris had already been retrieved from the sea at 19:10 by a Komatsu ARS UH-60J crew. In conjunction with the Japan Coast Guard, a full-scale search for the two pilots was continued on February 1, with a JMSDF UP-3D and the helicopter carrier Hyūga being brought in to assist.

Given permission by the next of kin, the Japan Ministry of Defense announced the names of the pilots as being those of the Group CO Col. Kōji Tanaka (52) and Capt. Ryūsei Ueta (33). After graduating from the National Defense Academy in 1990, Tanaka had gone on to fly with the 303rd and 305th TFSs before, with the rank of lieutenant colonel, leading the Blue Impulse team from 2011 to 2014. Via other posts, which had included time at the Air Staff Office, he had been appointed CO of the Tactical Fighter Training Group in June 2021. His total flight time was 2,850 hours, and Capt. Ueta had amassed 1,900 hours. 

As the Tactical Fighter Training Group (Aggressor) unit was formed 40 years ago, this month’s clutch of aviation magazines all contain full-length feature articles that include pilot interviews. A pall will now have been cast over the anniversary celebrations that had been officially marked just two weeks before, on December 18.

The first involving an Aggressor F-15DJ, this is the first accident involving the two-seat version of the F-15J in 28 years. On October 6, 1993, both Chitose-based crew members were rescued after ejecting from their 202nd Sqn aircraft, which had suffered a fuel system problem 20 km south of Tomakomai, Hokkaido Prefecture.

In the case of the F-15J, the most recent loss in the line of duty was that of a Naha-based 204th Sqn pilot on July 5, 2011. Immediately after the start of air combat training over the East China Sea, the pilot had radioed that the was breaking off from training but had crashed into the sea. On November 9 the same year, the Ministry of Defense announced the findings of an investigation that gave pilot incapacitation as the probable cause. The most recent JASDF fatality was that of an F-35A pilot, in similar circumstances, on April 9, 2019.

Subsequent events

The destroyer Sendai and minesweeper Ukushima joined the search on February 2 and the submersible-equipped submarine rescue ship Chihaya on February 3. Taking the currents into account, the search area was progressively widened. Meanwhile, JMSDF MCH-101s operated in conjunction with Komatsu ARS helicopters on February 2 and, taking the tides into account, searches were also made on foot by JGSDF troops along the shore in snow conditions over the following days. (More debris had been found close to the shore about 20 km from Komatsu on the afternoon of February 2.)

In response to questioning at a press conference held on the morning of February 4, Minister of Defense Nobuo Kishi stated that training flights would be halted until checks had been conducted of all aircraft. As it was not possible to suspend quick reaction alert (scramble) operations, these flights would be continued as necessary. (The Air Development & Test Wing at Gifu resumed F-15J flight testing on February 9.)

On February 7, a total of around 1,400 SDF personnel were still engaged in the search.

On February 8, while members of the public wanted to serve as volunteers and actively assist in the search, six groups of local residents demanded that the training be suspended until “local understanding” had been obtained. February 8 is of special significance to certain elements in the local community, as it was on that date in 1969 that a crash of a Komatsu-based Starfighter, which had been struck by lightning when on approach, claimed the lives of four people in the city of Kanazawa; the pilot had managed to eject.

Via a press release on February 11, the Ministry of Defense issued an apology for the ongoing anxieties the loss of the F-15DJ and its crew were causing. The release also expressed gratitude for all those who, at no small risk to themselves, had recovered debris, but requested that they not touch anything, contact the authorities and leave the recovery to SDF personnel.

In response to a request from Komatsu AB, the Kaga branch of the Ishikawa Prefectural Fisheries Association stated that it would cancel the trawling in the search area that had been planned for February 12. The Komatsu branch would also refrain from sailing out that day.

At long last, one of the deceased pilots—subsequently revealed to have been Capt. Ueta, who had been in the rear seat of the aircraft—was found and recovered by the JMSDF on February 11; hence the request placed with the fisheries association. On February 14, 2022, the JASDF announced that Col. Tanaka had been recovered the previous day. Although hampered by bad weather, salvage operations did result in the successful recovery of the flight data recorder and both engines on February 25.

It was on March 3 that Komatsu AB commander Col. Daigo Ibuki paid a visit to Komatsu City Hall. During his meeting with the mayor, he stated that the investigation into the crash would last around another two months and conveyed his intention to recommence flight training.

Komatsu AB had started to accept floral tributes on February 18, and a service was held to mourn the loss of the two pilots on February 20. That day, part of the aircraft’s tail assembly was the first section to be brought into Kanazawa port on board a salvage vessel.

Then Lt. Col. Tanaka featured on the cover of the June 2013 issue of Kōkū Fan magazine.

In due course, consideration will surely be given to the building of a permanent memorial to the two pilots at Komatsu AB. 

Substitute Phantoms Take Pride of Place at Hyakuri

Today’s two new arrivals at the Hyakuri base collection area
(Photo: 和父[Kazu-papa] via Twitter @Swordfi52449289)

(January 24, 2022) Having removed the two long-term resident Phantoms from its Yuhien (“Soar Upwards Park”) display area just last week (See Bulletin Board, January 17), today saw two replacements moved in to fill the void.

The lucky duo saved from being unceremoniously scrapped are F-4EJKai 07-8437, which was one of those that remained when the 301st TFS ceased its Phantom operations in 2020, and the first RF-4EKai 47-6901. The latter is still wearing the photographic film marking worn by the last of the line with the 501st Sqn in 2019.

Despite lacking the historical significance of its predecessor, which was the 50-year-old, second
U.S-built JASDF Phantom, 1981-vintage 437 was the 137th of the 140 Phantoms that saw
JASDF service. The 140th is on display at the JASDF Air Park facility at Hamamatsu.

(Photo: N.W. via Twitter @naowata2011)

A fitting tribute to JASDF reconnaissance Phantoms, 901’s career spanned the type’s full range of
colours, from the gull-grey/white period in the 1970s through to the camouflage schemes,
interspersed by its memorable JASDF 50th anniversary scheme in 2004.
(Photos: [Top, Hyakuri, July 1975] Akira Watanabe;
[above, Nov. 2019] うずまき via Twitter @TThc_f)

Then RF-4E 901 taxying at Nyutabaru in February 1984 and as an RF-4EKai on static display in
its JASDF 50th anniversary regalia at Tsuiki in November 2004.

(Photos: Takao Kadokami)

(Photo [Hyakuri, July 2018]: Rene Vallee)

On the move to their new home, 40-year-old F-4EJKai 437 (above) and 48-year-old RF-4EKai 901
(below) are towed across to be positioned in the base collection area. Just visible enshrouded on
the left in the above photo is the pole-mounted F-104J, which is reportedly due
to be given a more authentic colour scheme.
(Photos [Jan. 24, 2022]: [Top] JASDF Hyakuri AB via Twitter @jasdf_hyakuri;
[above] 鷲夢 via Twitter @syumu_302)

Company in Ishikawa Rescue Helicopter Deal in Need of Rescue

More than two years after its replacement was ordered, Ishikawa Prefecture’s 1997-vintage Bell 412
looks set to remain in operation for a while longer.
 (Photo: イージス艦 via Twitter @SPY_1D)

(January 23, 2022) A regional TV news report on NHK, the Japanese equivalent of the BBC, yesterday described the prospects for delivery of Ishikawa Air Rescue’s Bell 412EPI  helicopter as being “nowhere in sight”. The reason given was the unnamed Japanese company though which the aircraft was due to be supplied was facing insolvency and had initiated the legal mechanism to restructure its business.

Both having operated Bell 412s that were then already ripe for replacement, it was in October 2019 that Bell Textron announced that Ishikawa and Wakayama had each placed an order for a Bell 412EPI through Eurotec Japan, Inc. and Rotorcraft Services, respectively.

Winched up from a financial news website, a report reveals that Wakayama-based Eurotec Japan had filed for company rehabilitation on August 31, 2021, in what at 7.2 billion yen was the largest case of its kind that year in west-central Japan. Founded in 2010 by a former Wakayama Police and Doctor-Heli pilot, Eurotec Japan had been engaging in sales and leases to government agencies since 2016. Aside from intense market competition, the company had found it impossible to procure parts for its other, wide-ranging operations due to the pandemic, which at times had also made it difficult for its engineers to travel, and had thus run into severe financial difficulties.

Having decided to cancel its contract with Eurotec Japan, Ishikawa is still aiming to introduce a new helicopter. Until the situation is resolved, the plan is to soldier on with the fortunately still airworthy Bell 412 and request assistance when needed from neighbouring prefectures (Toyama, Gifu and Fukui).

Aichi Museum Acting on Impulse?

The powers that be at Aichi Museum of Flight would reportedly like a Blue Impulse T-4 to
jump hangar from Matsushima to Komaki.
(Photo: JASDF Matsushima AB via Twitter @matsushimabase)

(January 18, 2022) Today’s edition of the Chunichi Shimbun, the Nagoya-based daily newspaper, carried a report that revealed a tentative Aichi Museum of Flight plan to add a former Blue Impulse T-4 to its exhibits to mark the facility’s fifth anniversary in November this year.

Although the aircraft would be rented free of charge on a single-year contract, the museum would incur the costs of preparing the aircraft for display and of transporting the aircraft from Matsushima Air Base, way over in Miyagi Prefecture, to Nagoya.

While the museum reportedly sees a T-4 as a potential jewel in its crown and a way to boost visitor footfall, questions are being asked in the house, namely the Aichi Prefectural Government, in the form of a cost benefit analysis: Would people really pay to see a motionless T-4 when they are still in widespread service? (Actually, a 1996-vintage Blue Impulse T-4 is already on display at the JASDF Air Park in neighbouring Shizuoka Prefecture, less than two hours’ drive away.) In these especially trying times, the average monthly number of visitors in fiscal 2021 is expected to be around 11,000, despite having discounted the admission fee only a slight improvement on the previous year.

Also, local major manufacturer Mitsubishi might like to have a say before a Kawasaki interloper is brought into its “backyard”, where three historically-important, locally-built aircraft (an F-104J, T-2 and an HSS-2B) have been languishing since the Mitsubishi archives were relocated to the Oe Plant.

Perhaps the T-4 plan should wait until the type is being retired, when the big bucks approach used in the case of the YS-11P can be repeated; a T-4 makes its very last flight to Komaki and is then prepared for display.

Repeat Prescription for Doctor-Heli BK117D-3s

One BK117D-3 is currently in Doctor-Heli service, operated by Central Helicopter Service.
Fitted with standard fuel tanks, the improved BK117D-3 has a range of around 450 miles
when flying at 5,000 feet.
(Photo: Kawasaki Heavy Industries)

(January 18, 2022) It was announced today that Aero Asahi Corporation had placed an order with Kawasaki for two of the latest model BK117D-3s (also known as the Airbus Helicopters H145).

Following a single order placed by Aero Asahi in 2020, these second and third aircraft are both destined to be operated in the Doctor-Heli role. Other orders recently placed for Doctor-Heli ’D3s were made by Central Helicopter Service (in December 2020) and Shikoku Air Service (October 2021, for the new Doctor-Heli operation in Kagawa).

Central Helicopter Service became the first BK117D-3 operator in Japan when its initial aircraft,
which had been ordered in March 2019, was officially commissioned at a ceremony held at
Nagoya Airport in October 2021.
(Photo: きりしま via Twitter @katori93cp)

An improved version of the BK117D-2, the D-3 features a more spacious, less noisy cabin. Easily identifiable by its five-blade main rotor, performance has also been enhanced.

It was in 1979 that Kawasaki and the then Messerschmitt-Bolköw-Blohm (MBB) concern flew their respective prototypes of the jointly developed BK117. Deliveries commenced in 1983 and have continued through the European partner’s frequent name changes. In the press release accompanying this order, Kawasaki stated that its contribution to the cumulative total of more than 1,600 aircraft delivered in all variants stood at 182 as at the end of December 2021.

Although Kawasaki-built versions have yet to be adopted by the SDFs, BK117s have been well represented over the years not only in the Doctor-Heli network (25 aircraft past and present plus now a total of five ’D-3s on order) but also with prefectural police (16, with two ’D-3s due for imminent delivery to the Tokyo force) and rescue/disaster response units (40, plus ’D-3s on order for the City of Fukuoka and Ibaraki Prefecture).

Phantom Numbers Dwindling

About to face the final curtain, January 17, 2022. After nine years on display in the case of
the F-4EJ
Kai 17-8302 (left), 12 in the case of the RF-4EKai 57-6906, the net closes in
on the two Phantoms at Hyakuri.
(Photo: たの via Twitter @fuyudachi)

(January 17, 2022) Only 10 days have passed since J-HangarSpace reported on the devious JASDF policy of cashing in on the public’s affection for the Phantom by crowdfunding the repainting of the two aircraft loaned to the local authority for display at Ibaraki Airport.

Contrastingly, confirmation came today that the two Phantoms displayed across from the airport on Hyakuri base are no more.

The “sentence” had been in the offing since November 12 last year, when the base had issued a public announcement calling for contractor tenders for the work with a bid deadline of November 30. No matter that one of the aircraft was one of the initial pair of U.S.-built F-4EJs that arrived in Japan in July 1971, and the other was the only RF-4EKai on display, that counted for nothing.

Elsewhere around Hyakuri, it is thought that eight Phantoms remain, with only half of these—possibly ex-301st TFS F-4EJKai 57-8357 (seen here among removed J79s a-plenty in June 2021 [link]); ex-302nd TFS 77-8399 (black scheme) and 07-8428 (white scheme) plus RF-4E 47-6901—likely to remain after the summer.

(Above) Having arrived via Guam in July 1971, F-4EJ ’302 was devoid of tail markings until the
Air Proving Group badge and initials were applied in 1973; only the marking was being carried
by August 1989. Dating from 2013, the aircraft’s final markings were applied to commemorate
the 7th Air Wing’s then 40-year association with the Phantom.

(Photos [undated]: [Top] マイティvia Twitter @mighty0715;
[above] こまvia Twitter @KomakiKoshigaya)

RF-4EKai 906 happily parked on the Hyakuri ramp during its time on active service with
the 501st Sqn, October 2000
(above) and when its days were numbered.

(Photos: [Top] J-HangarSpace; [above] こまvia Twitter @KomakiKoshigaya)

Meanwhile, over at Gifu AB, the process is also under way there. The two Phantoms located on the south side (37-8318 and 47-8327) were to have been disposed of by the end of December, after which the two aircraft on the north side (47-8336, and 77-8393, below) were due to be moved and dismantled at the same place.

77-8393 (Photo [posted July 2020]: ハヤトvia Twitter @bo4vjkib3uy6Ayl)

Ashiya’s 60th Anniversary Event Marks New Departures

(Image [posted Jan. 13]: JASDF Ashiya AB via Twitter @jasdf_ashiya)

(January 2022) Although its diamond jubilee is falling at an unfortunate time even for outdoor mass gatherings, Ashiya AB is going ahead with plans for a drastically scaled-down event on February 27.

Targeted at a very small catchment area of towns around the base and selected districts in the city of Kita-Kyushu, the event will have a mere 300 attendees augmented by visitors to its YouTube channel. Local residents are being asked to submit applications with a deadline of a February 4 postmark.

The lineup will include a 2 km runway walk, which seems to be gaining in popularity as an attraction after its adoption by Gifu (see Bulletin Board, November 15, 2021), in combination with a flying display that will include a performance by the Blue Impulse aerobatic team. The 300 lucky winners will be able to make use of on-base car parking and, as an added privilege, have their photos taken with Blue Impulse pilots.

The runway walk is free, but the event is also being used to gauge response to the introduction of an entrance fee for a dedicated viewing area vantage point at other events this year (see Bulletin Board, March 1, 2021). In this case, a fee is being be charged for 13 seats offering a grandstand view from a balcony of the 13th Flying Training Wing building. Interestingly, accepted only in cash on the day, the grandstand entrance fee has been set at 10,000 yen per person regardless of age.

The static display will be open from 08:00, the flying display element will take place from 9:30 to 11:25 and be followed by the runway walk from 11:30 to 13:30.

Local university students during a tour of Ashiya AB in November 2021. Subject to the now normal
precautions, such recruitment activities continue to be organized in cooperation with
SDF regional offices.
(Photo: JASDF Ashiya AB via Twitter @jasdf_ashiya)

Ibaraki Airport’s Phantom Fund Me

The two Ibaraki Airport Phantoms were again decked out in uncharacteristically romantic blue
lights for the 2021-22 festive season. A rare layer of snow in early January served to mask
some of their faded paintwork.
(Photo: エルムvia Twitter @GAT009374504)

(January 2022) Already 10 years have passed since former 302nd TFS F-4EJKai 37-8319 and 501st Sqn RF-4EJ 87-6412 were placed on display at the Aviation Plaza at Ibaraki Airport Park.

They have served as a major attraction. From March 11–31 last year, for example, they were lit for three hours every evening by 6,000 LED lights to show gratitude to the medical professionals on the front line of the COVID pandemic, to express wishes for an ongoing recovery from the Great East Japan Earthquake of 2011, and as a way of marking the 11th anniversary of the opening of Ibaraki Airport.

As the elements have taken their toll on the aircraft, the airport has turned to Campfire, a Japanese crowdfunding site, in an attempt to restore their faded appearance to its former glory.

As tends to be the case, both aircraft remain JASDF property and are on loan to the branch of Omitama City that promotes the utilization of Ibaraki Airport.

In an ideal world, immaculate work would be carried out professionally at Hyakuri AB, their former home just across the way, perhaps even by SDF members who had worked on them during their active service careers. That would be well worth the money, and far better than entrusting the task to an outside contractor, but the plan is for them to be repainted by means of (aside from the financial unspecified) “support and volunteers”. The crowdfunding target of 6.7 million yen will be used for the painting work and to cover the cost of henreihin (“thank you gifts”) in the form of souvenir merchandise that will be dispensed depending on the amounts donated.

In return for the minimum 2,000-yen donation, donors will receive a thank you letter and commemorative badge. In addition to these items, donors of 5,000 yen will also receive a commemorative towel; donors of 8,000 yen a commemorative tumbler. Those who donate 10,000 yen will receive all four items.

As at January 16, nearly 4.5 million yen had been collected from, coincidentally, 501 people (link). The plan foresees February 6, 2022, as the end of the fundraising stage, and for the repainting work to be carried out between February 7 and March 26. An unveiling event, to include the handing out of some thank you gifts, is set for March 27, 2022.

(Above and below) Even in March 2019, the aircraft were already looking decidedly faded.
Hopefully, the neighbours at Hyakuri AB will still have some authentic paint left over.

(Photos: 岡部澄夫 via Twitter @sumio_okabe_)

Miho AB’s Very Own Phantom Friday

Scissors at the ready, dignitaries take part in the official ceremony held to mark Phantom 439
having officially joined the ranks of the Miho base collection.
(Photo: Lt.Col.Sasuke via Twitter @ LtColSasuke)

(January 7, 2022) A tape-cutting ceremony was held today for the third and latest addition to the aircraft displayed on the south side of Miho AB.

Having made its last flight from Hyakuri to Miho on September 9, 2020, former 301st TFS F-4EJKai 17-8439 was prepared for display and has now joined the resident C-1 and YS-11. As can be seen in the above photo, this part of the base collection is visible through a fence on the Uchihama Industrial Road in Oshinozucho.

Same aircraft, same photographer 34 years later. (Above) In its days as a standard F-4EJ with the
305th TFS, 439 carries RMU-10 towed target equipment at Iruma circa 1986 and
having ended its days with the 301st, departs Hyakuri for the last time in September 2020.

(Photos: WT01 via Twitter @WT018)

(Photo: Japan Ministry of Defense/JASDF)

New Year Traditions II: SDF First Formation Flights of Year

Personnel from the 1st Helicopter Brigade remain in serried ranks to see off the constituent
elements of the first formation training flight of the year, January 18, 2022. This year,
the formation consisted of 13 aircraft, including JGSDF and U.S. Ospreys.

(Photo: JGSDF 1st Helicopter Brigade via Twitter @1st_helb)

(January 2022) At JGSDF and JMSDF bases, the New Year traditionally kicks off with the first formation training flight. Prior to the flight departures, aircraft and their maintenance manuals are inspected and the whole base contingent assembles to hear speeches from squadron and overall commanders that express wishes for a safe, accident-free year.

Also on the morning of January 18, a nine-aircraft formation of six AH-1Ss, two OH-1s and a lone
UH-1J departed Tachikawa. The formation headed to Sagamihara, Kanagawa Prefecture, before
proceeding to the coast at Hiratsuka, returning via the Miura Peninsula and Yokohama

(Photos: JGSDF Tachikawa via Twitter @CAMP_TACHIKAWA)

JGSDF Narashino training ground, January 13, 2022(Photos: [Top] JSDF Gunma Public Cooperation Office via Twitter @gunma_pco);
[above] JGSDF 1st Helicopter Brigade via Twitter @1st_helb)

In the case of the JASDF, the service normally provides transport support for a paratroop drop training exercise at JGSDF Narashino, Chiba Prefecture (above). This year’s event, on January 13, was not made open to the public, for obvious reasons, but YouTube footage can be found here (link). (The Japanese at the top of the YouTube screen states that this was the first time for masks to be worn during this exercise.)

The first JMSDF base to mount a training flight this year was Hachinohe, on January 4.
(Photo: JMSDF 2nd Air Wing via Twitter @jmsdf_2aw)

On January 6, the 22nd Fleet Air Wing at Omura, Nagasaki Prefecture, launched four helicopters,
two SH-60Js, an SH-60K and a UH-60J.
(Photo: ペーター via Twitter @JpnSyun

The most publicized JMSDF New Year flight is that from Atsugi, which traditionally takes in Mt. Fuji.
This year, Atsugi was covered in a rare blanket of snow at the time of the formation’s departure.
(Photo [Jan. 7, 2022]: JMSDF 4th Air Wing via Twitter @jmsdf_4aw)

It was January 17 when Tokushima belatedly uploaded this photo of a TC-90 airborne over the
town of Matsushige, Tokushima Prefecture.

(Photo: JMSDF Tokushima Air Training Group via Twitter @jmsdf_tsatg)

Japanese families traditionally perform o-sōji, the cleaning of their homes, at New Year.’s.
Here, personnel at Shimofusa perform the first “apron walk” of the year designed to rid
the area of anything that might cause foreign object damage (FOD) to a passing Orion
(Photo: JMSDF Shimofusa Air Training Group via Twitter @jmsdf_smatg)

New Year Traditions I: New Year’s Fire Brigade Reviews

The poster for the 2022 Tokyo New Year Fire Brigade Review
(Image: Tokyo Fire Department)

(January 2022) The traditional dezomeshiki (New Year’s Fire Brigade Review) events are held by fire services throughout Japan in the first week of January.

Aside from that in Tokyo, which over the past two years has been held at Tokyo Rinkai Disaster Prevention Park in the city’s Koto Ward, the main events usually take place in Chiba (Chiba City), Kanagawa (Yokohama) and Osaka prefectures.

As an added bonus, these events feature flight demonstrations by helicopter crews, but these represent but one of the attractions on offer. For the Tokyo version, the methods demonstrated by some of the more than 2,000 participants range from the traditional methods of extinguishing town fires used up to the late 19th century to training using drones as part of earthquake preparedness.

Behind the fun and festivities lie other, more serious aims: to raise awareness of fire risks, train the general public in how to respond in the event of a fire, and to attract new recruits to the services.

Held with spectators allowed (albeit limited to 5,000 people) for the first time in two years,
the Tokyo proceedings lasted just two hours on the morning of January 6.

(Photo: RUN via Twitter @run474)

This year, COVID restrictions were naturally once again in place and some events reduced in scale. In the case of Chiba, only 500 local resident lottery winners could attend; Osaka was staged with no spectators. All made full use of media such as YouTube so that events could be watched live remotely.

The Osaka H155 named Oosaka circles above the New Year’s Fire Brigade Review held in the city
of Higashi-Osaka on January 9, three days after that in Osaka proper. In normal years the
helicopter would would land to enable the crew to participate in PR activities.

(Photo: 急行205系統via Twitter @kc1788)

The unlikely but realistic venue for the two-hour Chiba event on January 8 was a car park at the
Harbor City Soga retail complex.
(Photo: Lien via Twitter @roomskyguard)

Held on January 10, the Yokohama event’s aviation content featured both of the city’s AW139s. Their display was captured for wider viewing on YouTube (link).




Airshows in 2022
Apr. 3  Kumagaya
May  Miho (cancelled)
May 22  Shizuhama
            (Limited event)
June 5  Hofu-Kita
July 31  Chitose
Aug. 28*  Matsushima

Sept. 4  Ashiya
           (Limited event)
Sept. 11  Misawa
Sept. 19*  Komatsu
Sept.*  Akita
Oct. 23  Hamamatsu
Oct.*  Komaki
Nov. 3  Iruma
Nov.*  Gifu
Nov.*  Tsuiki
Dec. 4  Hyakuri
Dec.*  Naha
Dec.*  Nyutabaru
(*) To be confirmed

Airshows 2020/21
All cancelled

Airshows in 2019
Komaki 2019 poster
Mar. 2  Komaki
Apr. 14  Kumagaya
May 19  Shizuhama
June 2  Hofu-Kita
June 2  Miho
Aug. 4  Chitose
Aug. 25  Matsushima
Sept. 8  Misawa
Sept. 16  Komatsu
Oct. 13  Ashiya
Oct. 20  Hamamatsu
Nov. 3  Iruma
Nov. 9  Komaki
Nov. 10  Gifu 
Nov. 23  Kasuga
Dec. 1  Hyakuri
Dec. 7-8  Naha
Dec. 8  Tsuiki
Dec. 15  Nyutabaru



Airshows in 2022
Apr.  Narashino
Apr.  Somagahara

Apr.  Jinmachi
May Kita-Utsunomiya
May  Kasumigaura

Sept.*  Tachikawa

Nov.*  Akeno
Dec.*  Kisarazu
(*) To be confirmed

Airshows 2020/21
With exception of
Akeno (only limited
access), all cancelled

Airshows in 2019
narashino1ab2019koukahajimersJan. 13  Narashino
 (paratroop display)
Apr. 13  Kasuminome
Apr. 13  Somagahara
May 12  Takayubaru
June 1  Kasumigaura
June 16  Kita-Utsunomiya
June 23  Okadama
Oct. 6  Metabaru
Nov. 3  Akeno
Nov. 9  Tachikawa
Nov. 17  Naha
Nov. 24  Yao
Dec. 8  Kisarazu



Airshows in 2022

Apr. 30  Ohmura
May  Iwakuni
(Joint Friendship Day)
May  Kanoya
         (Both cancelled)
July 18  Tateyama
Sept.*  Shimofusa
Nov.*  Tokushima
(*) To be confrmed

Airshows 2020/21
All cancelled

Airshows in 2019
Apr. 27  Atsugi
Apr. 28  Kanoya
May 5  Iwakuni
(joint Friendship Day)
May 18  Maizuru
May 19  Ohmura
July 13-14
July 27  Tateyama
Sept. 21  Hachinohe

Oct. 20  Ozuki
Oct. 26 Shimofusa
Nov. 17  Tokushima



(*) Date to be confirmed

(Please note that air show dates are subject to change/cancellation.)


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