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J-HangarSpace Bulletin Board

A Farewell Look Back at 501st Squadron Phantoms

(March 29, 2020) The curtain having officially come down on the JASDF’s 501st Sqn with its disbandment on March 26, J-HangarSpace officers a pictorial retrospective. Perhaps a way will be found to resurrect the 501st moniker when the service forms its Global Hawk unit. (Other information and photos will be progressively added to the entry at the foot of the JASDF Squadron Histories Part 1 page.)

501st RF-4E 914As the 501st’s role could involve liaison with ground forces, this fine photo of the last of the 14 RF-4Es,
delivered in 1975, was actually found on a JGSDF website. With the exception of one lost in an accident
in March 1992, all RF-4Es were upgraded to RF-4E
Kai standard. (Photo: Japan Ministry of Defense)

Phantom formation (2)Three RF-4EKai Phantoms lead a formation off the coast of Ibaraki Prefecture. (Photo: JASDF)

RF-4E takeoff HyakuriRF-4EKai ‘913’ adds to the heat haze on takeoff from Hyakuri in June 2017.
(Photo: ‘Z3144228’ via Wikimedia Commons)

RF-4EJ 501st SqnTo the accompaniment of the tune Auld Lang Syne traditionally played in Japan to mark the end of any
public event, preparations are made to break up the static display at the Hamamatsu airshow held in
September 2014. One of the aircraft waiting, bathed in the afternoon sun with towbar already
attached, was one of the 15 F-4EJs modified to RF-4EJs and one of the eight of those
upgraded to RF-4EJ
Kai standard. (Photo: Hunini via Wikimedia Commons)

First JASDF RF-4EOne of the first pair that were flown direct to Hyakuri from the United States on December 3, 1974, the
first RF-4E (later RF-4E
Kai) was on display at the base in October 2015. Having remained in operation
until the squadron’s disbandment
(see March 9), this aircraft is hopefully earmarked for preservation.
(Photo: ‘Cp9asngf’ via Wikimedia Commons)
 rf-4ejRF-4EJKai 77-6392 undergoes flight line maintenance in October 2000. A TACER reconnaissance
pod capable of  providing real-time imagery is attached to the aircraft’s centreline station. 

3rd TFS Makes Its Move

“Leavin’ on a jet plane”. Misawa personnel turn out in force to see off the 3rd TFS’s
F-2 pilots as they head for Hyakuri.
(Photo: JASDF Misawa AB)

(March 25, 2020) Today, a long-anticipated event finally took place as the 3rd TFS bade farewell to Misawa AB and departed for tarmac new at Hyakuri.

In doing so shifting its allegiance from the 3rd to the 7th Air Wing, the 3rd TFS will act as the partner squadron to the 301st TFS, which as “the last man standing” will itself be winding down Phantom squadron operations over the coming year. The 301st will then be making the journey in the reverse direction to re-equip on the F-35A alongside its former neighbour at Hyakuri, the 302nd Sqn.

The longest-serving active JASDF squadron, the 3rd was the service’s first pure fighter (as opposed to training) squadron to form, in March 1956, and had been based at Misawa since December 1971.

Wish you were here! Two 3rd TFS F-2s carefully posed for a postcard from Hyakuri.
(Photo: JASDF Hyakuri AB)

501st Flies Its Final Training Missions

The final operational lineup of reconnaissance Phantoms at Hyakuri
(Photo [Mar. 9, 2020]: JASDF Air Defense Command Public Affairs Office)

(March 9, 2020) In accordance with plans for the unit to disband at the end of the month, the 501st Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron today conducted its final flight training missions. After the conclusion of training, ceremonies were naturally held to mark the occasion with around 300 personnel in attendance.

In its heyday, the squadron complement was 30 aircraft, but of those only four RF-4Es and two RF-4EJs were present today. Three aircraft took part in each of the roughly hour-long morning and afternoon training missions. In keeping with tradition, the 501st’s commanding officer Lt. Col. Toshimitsu Okada, who had led the final flight training, reported the end of the mission to Col. Jō Asakura, who was in overall command as, since September 2018, the 35th and final CO of the Tactical Reconnaissance Group.

(Photo: JASDF Hyakuri AB)

As the squadron CO had fittingly flown ’901, the JASDF’s first RF-4E, its nose was then anointed with sake (above) as a sign of gratitude for its 45 years of sterling service. After a photo call, established custom called for squadron members to douse each other with water.

Uzurano Museum Adding Cockpit-only Exhibit

The full-size replica of a Shiden-kai that has been on only limited display on the former site of
Uzurano airfield since June last year. 

 (Photo [Feb. 2]: やんま改 (Yanmakai) via Twitter [@konohana_27])

(March 8, 2020) A report in today’s edition of the Kobe Shimbun reports that the Uzurano Museum in Kasai City, Hyogo Prefecture, is this summer aiming to add a Shiden-kai cockpit section to its exhibits, which are centred around a full-scale replica of the famous World War II Navy fighter. The object is to safely provide visitors with an opportunity to gain same idea of what it was like to fly this type of aircraft.

Kawanishi Aircraft (today ShinMaywa Industries) assembled and flight tested 46 (of a total of around 400) Shiden-kai at its Uzurano Plant, on the very site where the museum is located. From October 1943, the adjoining airfield was also home to the Kate-equipped Himeji Air Group training unit.

In June of last year, the city opened the initial facility—in a disaster relief storage warehouse that resembles a wartime hangar—on the first and third Sunday of every month as part of its efforts to encourage tourism and promote peace studies. Prior to the official opening, former Shiden-kai pilot Ryō Okada (92), who lives in the nearby city of Miki, was given the opportunity to reacquaint himself with his former mount.

As the size of the replica has made it difficult for members of the public to both climb into the cockpit and extricate themselves afterwards, a purpose-built, easy access “simulator” is to be added. The full-scale replica reportedly cost 15 million yen (roughly $145,000), and the cockpit section alone has a 4.5 million yen ($43,000) price tag. The funds are being allocated from the so-called hometown tax, a “benefit your locality” tax scheme, by which taxpayers can choose to divert part of their residential tax to a local government of their choosing.

The Kasai municipal authorities plan to have moved the collection into a purpose-built building intended to assist in revitalizing the region by April 2022.

302nd Sqn Eagle Tail Marking Returns

(Photo: JASDF Misawa AB)

(March 3, 2020) Today marked the first flight of a 302nd Sqn F-35A wearing the new, low-visibility version of the unit’s famous eagle marking. (Please see the Squadron Histories Part 1 page for a closer look.)

Aviation Museums Temporarily Close Their Doors

The already largely deserted main exhibition hall at Tokorozawa Aviation Museum on February 27.

(February 29, 2020) In the month in which the newest museum in the land, at MHI’s Oe Plant, finally opened its doors (see below), others began to announce temporary closures as part of measures designed to contain the outbreak of coronavirus infections.

By chance, J-HangarSpace had made one final fact-checking visit to an already almost deserted Tokorozawa Aviation Museum on February 27, only for its management to announce its closure, initially for the two weeks from March 2 to March 16, the very next day. JASDF Hamamatsu Air Park and the JMSDF Museum at Kanoya decided to close for the entire month of March. The Aichi Museum of Flight was hoping to reopen from March 16.

Remaining open, Gifu-Kakamigahara Air and Space Museum has announced that some simulator exhibits will be taken out of service at least for the time being. Some of the events planned to mark its second anniversary of post-renovation opening have been called off. Likewise, the Misawa Aviation and Science Museum remains open, but as a precaution some of its exhibits have been closed off and all events and workshops up until the end of March postponed.

Postscript MHI having initially closed its newly opened facility to visitors up to March 15, this was likewise extended to March 31. Around mid-month, Tokorozawa and Misawa folllowed suit.

ShinMaywa Heralds Its 50th Aircraft

(Photo: ShinMaywa Industries, Ltd. via Facebook)

(February 20, 2020) Amid much fanfare [link], the seventh US-2 was today officially rolled out of the hangar at ShinMaywa’s Konan Plant in Kobe, Hyogo Prefecture.

Work is already proceeding on an eighth aircraft, but this event was heralding 9907 as the 50th aircraft the company has produced, following production runs of 23 PS-1s and 20 US-1/US-1As.

Having actually flown for the first time on February 10, the aircraft was procured under the FY2015 supplementary budget as part of additional funding earmarked to provide enhanced disaster relief. Delivery was being scheduled for March 2020.

The first aircraft from the then Shin Meiwa was the SS-2, designated the PS-1 in JMSDF service, which was rolled out nearly 53 years ago, on October 2, 1967; taxy tests followed from October 5, and the first flight was completed on October 29, 1967.

New Mitsubishi Archive Now Accepting Reservations

Seen in its former home at Komaki in February 2014, this reconstructed Zero now forms part of the
collection ensconced within Mitsubishi Heavy Industries’ Oe Plant, where the company’s aircraft
manufacturing connections began. In the early 2000s, the collection staff would
happily take the photo of the then occasional visitor sitting in its cockpit.

(February 2020) On February 4, having discovered that the Mitsubishi archive collection had been declared open to the public on January 31, J-HangarSpace attempted to contact the new facility.

Unfortunately, the archive itself has no telephone links to the outside world, or at least none that they wished to divulge; the only way to reach someone was via the website inquiries page for the company’s Nagoya Aerospace Systems Division. Eventually an anonymous reply came from Corporate Communications, saying that they were unable to provide any publicity photos (hence the old photos included here) and that there is an online application form (in Japanese) that members of the public can use to reserve a two-hour visit.

Primarily intended for “in-company education purposes,” the collection was formerly housed in a building, which was closed due to its age in June 2017, at the division’s Komaki South Plant. Complete with the reconstructed Zero Model 52 and Shusui, all is now safely tucked away inside the Clock Tower Building within the Oe Plant, also in Nagoya. The SDF aircraft remain on open-air display at Komaki.

Hitting the streets on February 21, the April issues of all the mainstream Japanese aviation magazines carried illustrated reports, JWings describing the facility as a “must-see for learning about the development and history of the Japanese aircraft industry”. The articles also showed the two star attractions parked one behind the other, with blueprints of the designs marked out on the floor beneath them. Despite a cutout ceiling that allows them to be viewed from above, the low light level, mausoleum-like setting makes them look as if they are below decks on an aircraft carrier. Apt enough for the Zero, and the Shusui might have spent part of its life in a cave . . . Nearby, spotlights shed light on a Kasei Model 22 (A10) and Kinsei Model 1 (A4) engine, the latter featuring some cutaway cylinders to reveal dummy pistons.

Specializing in covering the history of Mitsubishi aircraft manufacturing from the Taishō period (1911–1926) to the early 1950s, the collection comprises 148 original items and documents—including manuals, test reports and blueprints—as well as more than 60 exhibits, such as panel displays. Scale models of Mitsubishi aircraft abound in a distinctive, arc-shaped showcase in a somewhat more brightly lit zone. Some photos of the interior can be found on the official website page [link].

A photo, again from February 2014, of the now sheathed “sharp-bladed sword” Shusui interceptor.

The company accepts online reservations for the free unguided tours, which are normally conducted on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, from one month up to three days prior to the desired visit date. A maximum of 30 people is accepted for each two-hour slot. Guides come in the form of tablet computers available from reception.

Note that photography is only permitted at a “photo spot” by the entrance on the ground floor, and “there may be occasions when no photography is allowed at all”. As it is, all cameras and mobile phones have to be placed along with any bags inside lockers before the main part of a tour commences.

Armed with a notebook and pen, J-HangarSpace hopes to pay a visit in due course.

In view of the ban on photography at the new facility, these images will have to suffice.
(Above) The sign underneath the piece of propeller blade, from a Zero that would have weighed 
around 1.7 tons, actually encouraged people to touch and lift the exhibit.

(Below) The large number of scale models, including this one of a Tateyama-based Navy Type 93
Land-Based Bomber, all seem to have made the move to the new home.
Other photos from the previous location can be found on the Aviation Museums page
(All photos taken in February 2014)

Fukushima Police Helicopter Involved in Non-Fatal Crash

AW139AW169 (1318)(Photo [2017]: 航空機大好きカメラマン via Twitter [@AW139AW169])

(February 1, 2020) The AW139 helicopter operated by the Fukushima Prefectural Police made an emergency landing in a rice field this morning, seriously injuring one of the seven people on board.

Carrying a doctor and a nurse, the aircraft was being used to transport a donor organ for a heart transplant from a hospital in the city of Aizuwakamatsu to Fukushima airport.

The aircraft came to rest on its side in a field in the Mihotamachi-Shimomoriya district of Koriyama, in the northeast of the prefecture. Aside from losing its main rotor blades, the aircraft’s tail unit sheared off on impact.

Meanwhile, Elsewhere in the World . . . (2)

On its way back from anti-piracy operations in Djibouti, a 2nd FAS P-3C crew undertakes search
and rescue training with vessels from the Sri Lanka Navy.

(Photo [Jan. 21, 2020]: JMSDF Public Affairs Office)

(February 14, 2020) Today, the JMSDF Public Affairs Office released the January operational statistics for the current P-3C detachment engaged in anti-piracy operations off the coast of Somalia and over the Gulf of Aden.

A total of 20 missions were flown from Djibouti during the month. These brought the cumulative total of such flights to 2,448 since the first such detachment, which involved elements from the Atsugi-based 3rd FAS, was sent in May 2009.

Each mission being on average 6.5 hours in duration, the 130 flying hours completed in January increased the cumulative total to around 18,300 hours. Having confirmed the identity of around 1,600 merchant vessels navigating the area, that total rose to 203,200.

Each detachment is usually three months long with a two-week overlap. January saw the 37th detachment, provided by the 2nd FAS at Hachinohe, hand over to the 38th detachment, from the 5th FAS at Naha. The former had arrived on station early last October, and its successor was present from January 11.

Members of the 5th FAS turn out in force see off the P-3C crew assigned to the 38th JMSDF
Deployment Airforce for Counter-Piracy Enforcement (DAPE) mission on the day of
its departure from its Naha base.
(Photo: Joint Staff Public Affairs)

The helicopter-equipped destroyers that are sent one by one to the area are on six-month tours. Currently it is the turn of the normally Sasebo-homeported Harusame, which departed in late November 2019 to relieve the Sazanami. The latter returned to Kure on January 25, having been away since late July 2019.

Meanwhile, Elsewhere in the World . . . (1)

The US-2 was absent from the large SDF contingent when this Cope North 2020 commemorative
photo was taken at Andersen AFB on Guam on February 12.

(Photo: U.S. Air Force/Senior Airman Gracie Lee, Pacific Air Force Public Affairs)

(January 31 to March 8, 2020) Japan sent a large number of assets and personnel to this year’s Cope North Guam exercise, which broadly involved U.S., Australian and Japanese participation in two trilateral training elements: tactical combat and humanitarian assistance/disaster relief.

As ever, the exercise was primarily designed to provide a practical training environment for the participating units to maintain and improve interoperability and tactical skills. In the case of the Japanese units, including the time spent deploying to and withdrawing from Guam, this element covered the full five-week period.

(Above) One of the eight 304th Sqn Eagles climbs out from Andersen AFB as
(below) another lands during Cope North Guam 2020.

(Photos: U.S. Air Force, PACAF Public Affairs [top taken on Feb. 14 by Staff Sgt. Curt Beach])

Centered on Andersen AFB, the broad-based training itself—ranging from air defence and ground attack to in-flight refueling as well as combat search and rescue—was conducted over and in the airspace surrounding the Northern Marianas islands of Tinian and Farallon de Medinilla. Whereas the former is well known for its role as a base for epoch-making B-29 operations in World War II, the latter is an uninhabited islet located north of Saipan, the long-standing use of which as a live-fire gunnery and bombing range has sparked opposition on environmental grounds.

This year, it fell to the JASDF’s 8th and 9th air wings to provide six 6th Sqn F-2A/Bs from Tsuiki and eight 304th Sqn F-15J/DJs from Naha, respectively, which trained in conjunction with two 601st Sqn E-2Cs from Misawa and two U-125As. This deployment alone required the presence of around 350 personnel. A total of around 100 personnel accompanied the 403rd Sqn C-2 and 404th Sqn KC-767 that provided airlift support.

U.S. and JMSDF personnel engage in some bilateral participation to refuel the US-2 at Andersen 
during the exercise.
(Photo [February 20]: U.S. Air Force/Airman 1st Class
Michael S. Murphy, Pacific Air Force Public Affairs)

Likewise coordinated from Andersen AFB, the trilateral humanitarian assistance and disaster relief element was conducted in the two-week period from February 12–26. In addition to Tinian, the training area encompassed the islands of Saipan and Rota and their surrounding airspace. Covering aspects that included air drop and patient evacuation training, Japanese participation was conducted using the two U-125As and the C-2 and involved around 70 personnel.

Herculean Efforts Help Fight Fires Down Under

The pilots of one of the pair of C-130H Hercules aircraft sent to Australia receive the signal to
shut down engines upon arrival at RAAF Base Richmond on January 16.
(Photo: JASDF Public Affairs Office)

(January–February 2020) In response to an Australian government request for assistance in dealing with the unprecedented fires that had been ravaging large tracts of the country since September of last year, two JASDF C-130H Hercules transports were sent from their Komaki base to provide additional airlift support.

At the time of departure of the 401st Airlift Sqn’s 80-strong contingent on January 15, the fires had claimed the lives of 23 people and devastated around five million hectares (19,300 square miles).

In sharing the responsibility for transporting supplies and firefighters, the JASDF joined elements of both troops and firefighters that had previously been dispatched from the United States, Canada and New Zealand.

The scene at RAAF Base Amberley, located to the southwest of Brisbane, during the loading of
Australian Army vehicles that were airlifted to the Australian capital, Canberra.

(Photo [January 30]: JASDF Komaki)

The two JASDF aircraft were primarily operated from RAAF Base Richmond, northwest of Sydney. In human terms, at the time operations were concluded on February 8, the detachment had airlifted around 600 Australian troops, reservists, firefighters and people affected by the unprecedented fires.

Popular Addition Made to Gifu Base Collection

(Photo [Jan. 2020]: JASDF Gifu AB [See Where Are They Now?])

(January 2020) On January 18 and 22, the distinctive F-4EJ ’409 was towed from storage to a place among the other aircraft in the Gifu AB collection. This long-standing servant of the Air Development & Test Wing, which had made its last flight from the base on March 26, 2018, was finally being put out to grass.

Atsugi SNJ-5 Given Back Its JMSDF Identity Tags

(Photo: NAF Atsugi via Facebook)

(January 2020) After the completion of restoration work commenced in August 2019, the resident SNJ-5 at Atsugi has been returned to its position of wingman to the statue of General Douglas MacArthur.

Carried out by the base’s Aircraft Intermediate Maintenance Detachment, the work this time around involved finishing the aircraft in the standard colour scheme it would have sported when operated by the JMSDF from the mid-50s to the mid-60s.

Although Japanese sources had previously expressed some doubt about the aircraft’s true identity, the serial 6165 (if accurate) is that of the fifth of the first five ex-U.S. Navy SNJ-5s that initially saw service at Tateyama following the JMSDF’s formation.

May 2014. This is the Atsugi gate guard’s previous gaudy guise that, while General MacArthur’s
back was turned, has now been transformed into something more historically accurate. This is 
possibly the same SNJ that, after its withdrawal from JMSDF use in 1964, had U.S. Navy
markings applied to its port side only. Having been adorned with a variety of  spurious
markings in its time at Atsugi, this scheme was applied circa 2012. 

OH-6D Successfully Managing to Avoid Skid Row

TomboyOH-6Ds await their fate at JGSDF Kasumigaura, which over the years has served as something of  a
collection point for helicopters that have been placed in storage or withdrawn from use.
(Photo [May 2010]: Tomboy [link])

(November 16, 2019) As a follow-up to the story on the impending final demise of the JGSDF OH-6D (see April 21, 2019), a team from Tachikawa was tasked with the transportation and on-site installation of an OH-6D airframe for temporary public display. 

In many respects, this was a throwback to the 1960s. Back then, SDF aircraft were incongruously displayed for recruitment and publicity purposes at seemingly unrelated public events, even in department stores. 

More than 50 years later, the event on this occasion was the five-hour Tama Monorail Festival 2019 that Tokyo Tama Intercity Monorail Co., Ltd, held today as a sign of gratitude to its customers. The main exhibits were various types of wheeled vehicles, including those operated by the SDF and emergency services.

Prior to the event, the JGSDF team drove the airframe on the back of a truck the short distance from JGSDF Tachikawa to the venue, the company’s rolling stock base, which is itself a short walk from Takamatsu Station on the monorail line.

r01tamamono_2crs(Photo: JGSDF Tachikawa Army Camp)

The OH-6D in question, “social security number” 31172, has been used as a ground instruction airframe at Tachikawa since around 2015. The only “flights” undertaken here were with the assistance of a crane (above), which hopefully would not have put its weary airframe under any undue strain.

A week before, 31172 had been on less potentially back-breaking parade on its home turf for this year’s Tachikawa air show, which as usual likewise featured an emergency services element. Then the aircraft had served as a setting for members of the public to have their photos taken by base staff next to some JGSDF hardware, albeit no longer on active service. Such can be the tenuous existence of an ex-SDF aircraft that is only one decision away from a one-way trip to that Kasumigaura boneyard.

NikonskyF16(1)crsA great shot of a specially marked 10th AvSqn OH-6D being put through its paces at the type’s final
appearance at the Akeno open day in November 2019. For an explanation of the markings, please
visit the 10th AvSqn section on the JGSDF Squadron Histories page.
(Photo: ぷに一 [@NikonskyF16])

And Then There Was One


(October 8, 2019) The JASDF YS-11FC 12-1160 took to the skies for the last time from Iruma AB today, which means that only one example of this Rolls-Royce Dart-powered flight check version (52-1151) remains in service. The first of the replacement Cessna U-680As is expected to be delivered by March 2020.

Originally purchased with fiscal 1970 funds, ’160 first flew on January 11, 1971, and was delivered on February 25, 1971. Its farewell public appearances were at the Misawa air show and Yokota Friendship Day events in September.

Sole survivor ’151 is even older, having been flown for the first time on February 15, 1965, and originally delivered as one of the first pair of standard YS-11 transports on March 30 that year.

Graffiti-Covered F-2A Heralds 3rd TFS’s Move South

3 Sqn F-2 Misawa 2019This photo angle affords a good view of the seeming hotch-potch of motifs applied to the upper surfaces
of a 3rd TFS F-2A to mark the unit’s impending departure for Hyakuri.
(Photo: JASDF Misawa AB)

(Sept. 8, 2019) One of the major attractions at today’s Misawa air show, which attracted 95,000 visitors, was a flying display by a 3rd TFS F-2A specially adorned with designs and words of gratitude.

Barring some future operational reshuffle, this was the last such event at which the 3rd will be present as a Misawa resident. After no less than 49 years, the unit will be relocating to Hyakuri by the end of March 2020 to make way for the 302nd TFS, which will be heading in the opposite direction and trading in its Phantoms to become the second F-35A squadron alongside the 302nd TFS.

Although F-2 special markings have tended to be applied primarily to the tail due to the use of composite materials, the ground crew seems to have let their artistic bent run away with them in the paint shop. Simple red silhouettes of the three types flown by the unit—the F-86F, F-1 and F-2—and the words, also in red, MISAWA 1971 – 2020 were applied above the hinomaru national insignia on both sides of the fuselage. In contrast, the theme for the myriad designs on the upper surfaces, including the tailplane, was the four seasons at Misawa, culminating with a row of snowflakes on the rear fuselage. This view of the right side [link] shows that the paint staff members’ names were applied to the ventral strake, that on the left bore the words Reiwa era first year above Last F-2 in MISAWA [link].

Misawa F-2A (Mercado)A close-up of the parting message of gratitude on the aircraft’s tail.
(Photo: U.S. Navy/Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Jan David De Luna Mercado)

Postscript The aircraft was also present at the Hachinohe event on September 21 and still wearing the special markings at the Hyakuri airshow on December 1.

For Sale:  Jumbo Slice of JASDF History

B747(20-1101)WCThe currently for sale 747-400 lands at Santiago del Compostela, Spain, when carrying the then Crown
Prince Naruhito on a state visit, June 15, 2013.
(Photo: Bene Riobo via Wikimedia Commons)

(August 2019) One of the two Boeing 747s retired from JASDF service in March of this year was this month made available for online sale [link] by California-based CSDS Aircraft Sales & Leasing. The price tag for the low-hour, painstakingly maintained and well-equipped aircraft is $28 million.

The decision to buy the two aircraft direct from Boeing was made in 1987 by the government of Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone, which was being pressured by the U.S. Reagan administration to reduce its trade surplus. Having entered service in April 1992, the 1991-model aircraft chauffeured the Japanese emperor, 14 prime ministers and other dignitaries during those 27 years. Serving as an emergency backup should the first aircraft experience technical problems when heading to a foreign destination, the second aircraft would tag along 30 minutes behind.

According to a report in the Nikkei Asian Review on August 17, the budget allocation for the two aircraft in 1987 was 36 billion yen, equivalent to $339 million at today’s rate of exchange. The two veteran aircraft were initially sold in May via auction to a recycling company in Fujinomiya, Shizuoka Prefecture, for a mere 1.3 billion yen (a little over $12 million).

When last heard, the aircraft (N7474C, formerly 20-1101) was undergoing maintenance checks and renovation of its in places slightly retro interior at the Pinal Airpark facility in Marana, Arizona. It had 16,333 flight hours “on the clock” and had completed 13,569 landings.

Also acquired by CSDS, the other aircraft (N7477C, formerly 20-1102) is suffering the ignominy of being converted to all-cargo configuration in a process that is expected to take roughly a year.

Anti-Tailgating Air Patrols All the Rage


(July 28, 2019) The Chiba Nippo news company today reported on new measures being taken by the Chiba Prefectural Police to combat tailgating and road rage.

Stemming from a national headline-making incident that ended in the tragic deaths of a husband and wife on an expressway in Kanagawa Prefecture in July 2016, the measures are also in response to a recent spike in dangerous driving and anti-social behavior on roads. In Chiba Prefecture alone, in 2018 the crackdown resulted in the number of such incidents detected rising to 1,164, nearly nine times that of the previous year. There were 726 cases of not keeping sufficient distance from the car in front (up 636 from the previous year), while overtaking violations, such as overtaking from the left side, totaled 408 (up 393).

This year, the prefecture initiated air patrols on July 9 and continued them through its 10-day summer road safety campaign that commenced the following day.

Woman Reaches New Heights As US-2 Pilot

gallery010701c(rs)Pilot Lt JG Megumi Okada gives her crew members instructions on board their US-2. (Photo: JMSDF)

(July 1, 2019) This page has already featured the first woman cleared to pilot a JGSDF attack helicopter (July 2017), a JASDF combat aircraft (Auig. 24, 2018), a Japan Coast Guard Puma (Dec. 25, 2018) and command a JGSDF LR-2 (Feb. 27, 2019). J-HangarSapace can now report that the first woman to be promoted to command a 71st Fleet Air Squadron US-2 rescue amphibian completed her first flight from Iwakuni today. 

The only woman among the unit’s 20 pilots, Lieutenant Junior Grade Megumi Okada’s achievement has been a long time coming. Counting the Imperial Japanese Naval Air Force era, next year marks the centenary of flying boats in Japanese military service, and the 71st itself has been active for 43 years.

Having qualified to fly in the left-hand seat of a US-2 in November 2018, the 90-minute flight marked the latest milestone in a career of someone who had joined the service straight from high school in 2010. She told reporters that she had aspired to become a US-2 pilot since watching one perform at the inaugural ceremony for her JMSDF training intake as the type matched her desire to be of service to people. As of March 2019, the unit had been sent on 1,043 search and rescue as well as patient airlift missions during which it had been of crucial assistance to 1,019 people. 

The 28-year old has amassed more than 2,000 flying hours, including 990 hours on the P-3C and already 630 hours as a US-2 co-pilot. Arriving at Iwakuni in March 2017, she was previously assigned to the 3rd Fleet Air Wing at Atsugi. 

An interview that the then US-2 co-pilot Ensign Okada conducted for the JMSDF’s own video channel in June 2018 can be found here [link]. That coincided with her first fulfilling the role of being the sole woman US-2 pilot in the world.

F-2s Make Debut at Red Flag Alaska 19-2

F-2A (Gamboa)crsThe pilot of an F-2A makes the ‘hang loose’ or shaka gesture as he taxis down the flight line at
Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska, during Red Flag-Alaska 19-2.

(Photo [June 10, 2019]: U.S. Air Force/Staff Sgt. Sergio A. Gamboa, 51st FW Public Affairs)

(June 2019) Billed as “an annual U.S. Pacific Air Forces field training exercise for U.S. and international forces that enhances the readiness of participating forces,” Red Flag this year involved 85 aircraft and more than 8,000 personnel from the United States and othet NATO air arms, Thailand and South Korea as well as Japan.

For the first time, the on this occasion 280-strong Japanese contingent included representatives from an F-2 unit, namely six F-2As from the 3rd Air Wing’s 3rd TFS at Misawa, the Tsuiki-based 8th Air Wing’s F-2s having been actively supporting the Cope North Guam exercises for many years. The 3rd Sqn aircraft were refueled en route by a 404th Sqn JASDF KC-767 and U.S. Air Force KC-135R. Also present in support were an E-767 and two C-13Hs from Hamamatsu and Komaki, respectively.

Previously known as Exercise Cope Thunder, the first of which was held at Clark Fiend in the Philippines, the exercise has attracted participation from Japan since 1996, changed its name in 2006, and JASDF fighters have been participating since 2003. JASDF elements take part in two of the three RF-A exercises held each year.

The F-2s began departing from Misawa on May 27, the exercise itself running from June 7–22. The main aspects covered were air defence, tactical attack and tactical air training.

Restart of F-35A Operations One Step Closer

79-8705 F-35AThe ill-fated F-35A seen during training at Luke AB, Arizona, in March 2018. (Photo: Tom McGhee)

(June 10, 2019) In announcing the findings of the investigation into the fatal crash of a 302nd TFS F-35A on a training flight from Misawa on April 9 (see April 10 report below), Defense Minister Takeshi Iwaya stated that the “highly likely” cause was the pilot suffering a loss of spatial awareness. The likelihood of an aircraft abnormality having been a contributory factor was described as being “extremely low”.

Although no date was specified, the Ministry of Defense will be returning the 12-aircraft fleet to flight operations after conducting checks on the aircraft and providing the pilots with supplementary training.

This announcement comes five days after the body of the pilot, Major Akinori Hosomi (41), was retrieved from the ocean, nearly two months to the day after the crash that had claimed his life.

The U.S. Navy having brought its support to an end on May 8, Japanese attempts to locate and salvage the main wreck have now been abandoned.

Postscript After gaining the approval of the Aomori Prefecture governor and the mayor of Misawa, daytime-only F-35A operations recommenced on August 1.  

And J79s Will Sound No More

hyakuriaccessRF-4190922(2(Photo: JASDF Hyakuri AB)

(May 2019) On an as yet unpublicized day early in 2020, the 501st Squadron will perform the last flight of a JASDF reconnaissance Phantom, to be followed by the last flight of a standard Japanese Phantom later in the year. After coming to a halt on the apron, most likely  at Hyakuri, that aircraft’s J79 engines will be shut down for the last time, and the distinctive sound that dates back nearly 60 years to the arrival of the first JASDF Starfighter in 1962 will be confined to recordings.

In the run-up to the spooling down of those engines for the last time, a number of 501st Sqn aircraft have been decorated in a kind of toned-down version the End of the Film design worn by the RF-4Es of the Hellenic Air Force’s 348th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron, which disbanded in 2017 [link].

The design was first seen on RF-4Es 57-6907 and ‘909 in early May 2019. The wide brownish-red perforated film around the rear fuselage contains silhouettes of the two types flown by the unit, the Sabre and the Phantom, and the years of its formation and disbandment, 1961 and 2020. A narrow film curls back from in front of the cockpit. These aircraft also featured nose shark mouths and “Spook” characters on their engine intake splitter plates. In keeping with their colour schemes, both had faint versions of the former chevron outline marking of 501st Sqn on their tail fins.

FilmRF-4(905Bolfing)crsRF-4E 47-6905 arrives at Yokota AB for Friendship Festival 2019 on September 13, 2019.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Brieana E. Bolfing)

On the last weekend in May, the overwater-camouflaged 47-6905 appeared in the commemorative scheme at a special RF-4 event held at Air Park, the JASDF museum at Hamamatsu. The aircraft was sporting pixel-decorated red, gold and black underwing (and later centreline) drop tanks, each again with a slanting “film” band.

The 2019 Defense White Paper listed 10 reconnaissance Phantoms in service as at March 31, and the July 2019 issue of Koku Fan, which appeared in late May, reported that consideration was being given to applying the film design to all of the 501st’s operational aircraft, for maximum exposure. By the end of the month, two more RF-4Es, 47-6903 and 57-6909, had been noted sporting the special markings.

phantomtour501(Photo: JASDF Hyakuri AB)

“Flying Egg” Headed for Final Scramble 

OH-6D Okadama(Photo: JGSDF Okadama)

(April 21, 2019) A report in the June 2019 issue of JWings heralds the protracted demise of the OH-6 from the JGSDF’s ranks, which has been under way since Kawasaki fulfilled the last of its regular Ministry of Defense maintenance contracts on the type in August 2016.  

The article focuses on 31294, an OH-6D assigned to the Northern Regional Helicopter Squadron, which made a final 30-minute flight amid the snow flurries at its Okadama base near Sapporo on March 13. In the more than 23 years since it was “hatched” at Kawasaki’s Gifu works on October 25, 1995, this “Flying Egg” had amassed 5,500 flight hours; delivery to its first operator, the 1st Sqn at Tachikawa, had taken place on December 1 that same year.

Having been the first to receive the earlier model OH-6J on February 27, 1971, the unit had followed the trend and upgraded to the OH-6D and has thus in all has had a 48-year association with the type. During that time, OH-6s were used during emergency operations following volcanic eruptions on Mt. Usu (twice) and major earthquakes as well as to help provide security coverage during the 1972 Sapporo Winter Olympics and the 2008 G-8 Hokkaido Toyako Summit. The remaining four aircraft on strength at Okadama were due to have followed 31294 into retirement by the end of last month.


As a service, the JGSDF received 117 OH-6Js and (from 1979) 193 OH-6Ds, the numbers of which have been declining over the past decade. There were no less than 111 OH-6Ds officially on strength as at March 31, 2009, but according to the latest official inventory, listed in the 2019 Defense of Japan white paper, the JGSDF had only 26 still in service as at March 31, 2019. The last of those is planned for retirement by the end of March 2020.


Like many other examples of the type—that seen above was at Tachikawa in November 2013—31294 was destined to remain at Okadama as a maintenance training airframe.

T-4 Flight Ban Lifted, with Strings Attached

T-4 on jacks

[Looking back at events after an extended absence from the “hangar,” J-HangarSpace belatedly reports on a protracted jet training flight ban.]

It was on April 19 that the JASDF announced that its T-4s would resume flights on April 30, albeit limited to those aircraft that had undergone the necessary maintenance and testing; this at a time when the service’s F-35A fleet remained grounded following the April 9 loss (see previous entry below).

A week prior to that tragic event, on April 2, the crew of a Misawa-based T-4 had reported abnormal sounds and vibration on takeoff but had managed to return safely. Like the reason for the only recently lifted and prolonged JGSDF OH-1 grounding (see story for March 1, 2019), subsequent investigation had revealed that one of the turbine blades on the No. 2 Ishikawajima-Harima F3-IHI-30B engine had detached and caused substantial damage.

A progressive programme of replacement and testing on the entire fleet of around 200 aircraft was being implemented in cooperation with IHI.

In the case of the Blue Impulse aerobatic team, flying was not expected to be resumed until the end of June. Having cancelled the first four shows of the season, the display schedule was set to resume on July 21, when the team will be a major attraction at the local Japan Top Three Scenic Views Day event in Matsushima township.

Previously, examinations of the entire T-4 fleet had been prompted following six reports of cases of in-flight loss of thrust from one engine between May 2002 and February 2003. In May 2003, it was reported that the examinations had revealed that tiny screw fragments had become detached in fuel control devices and blocked the fuel amount sensors, causing partial fuel starvation.

Tragic Start to 302nd Sqn F-35A Operations

JASDF F-35A photo12crsThe aircraft lost in a training accident, the first assembled by Mitsubishi, had first flown on
June 13, 2017, and been resident at Misawa since May 2018.
(Photo: Japan Ministry of Defense/JASDF)

(April 10, 2019) A major search operation was initiated following the loss of contact with the pilot of an F-35A during a training flight on the evening of April 9.

The aircraft was one of four that had departed Misawa for a night air combat training exercise at around 7 p.m. Its last known position was over the Pacific Ocean, about 135 kilometres east of the base, around half an hour later. The aircraft was from the 302nd Sqn, which had officially reformed on the F-35A after 45 years of Phantom operations at a ceremony just a few days before, on March 26.

Aside from 11 JASDF aircraft, a JMSDF P-3C Orion and SH-60J as well as a U.S. Navy P-8 Poseidon were brought in to assist with the search operation. A search from sea level was conducted by eight ships, five from the JMSDF and three from the Japan Coast Guard. The first pieces of wreckage were picked up by the crew of an Akita Air Rescue Squadron UH-60J shortly after 10 p.m.

Coming soon after the loss of an F-2B (see February 20 story below), the accident involved the fifth JASDF F-35A, the first assembled by Mitsubishi, which had made its maiden flight on June 13, 2017. The 14th F-35A was undergoing pre-delivery test flights from Mitsubishi’s Nagoya plant on the day of the accident.

Postscript Air and sea search operations were still under way a week after the crash amid reports that the Unites States would be offering its assistance in any attempt to salvage the lost aircraft, only small pieces of which had thus far been recovered. No replacement aircraft would be procured, but Defense Minister Takeshi Iwaya took the opportunity to reiterate that over the next 10 years Japan would still be buying 147 of the type, 105 F-35As and 42 F-35Bs, the latter ultimately to be embarked on board the two Izumo-class carriers after their refit.

Rare Sights at Tokorozawa Aviation Museum

(Photo [403rd Sqn C-2]: Dinah via Twitter [@Ki46Dinah])
(Photo [402nd Sqn C-1]: ‘seki’ via Twitter [@seki_1018])

(April 7, 2019) An event organized at Tokorozawa’s Aviation Park to commemorate the centenary of the French Aviation Military Mission’s arrival in Japan featured some impressive flying by the crews of three JASDF transport aircraft. (For more details see the Special Events section of this website’s dedicated Tokorozawa Aviation Museum page.)

JCG Bids Fond Farewell to Bell 206s

2018-10-28 10.13.42crsOne of three that officially entered service in March 1996, JCG JetRanger III JA6177 had completed
7,785 flying hours upon its retirement. All three aircraft that remained in service were present in the
hangar at Sendai Air Station for what was to be their last open day appearance in October 2018.

(March 22, 2019) Two days after conducting the last training flight on the type, a decommissioning ceremony was today held for the three remaining JCG Bell 206B JetRangers at Sendai Air Station.

The type holds a special place in the hearts of the local people. Happening to be airborne over the Miyagi Prefecture coast, two JCG JetRangers were the first aircraft to come to the assistance of people imperiled by the tsunami that struck the Tohoku region on March 11, 2011; the crews rescued a total of 34 people. Quoted in Sankei News on March 20, one of the pilots that day, now instructor Atsushi Takahashi (45), remembers the events as if they were yesterday and expressed his sadness that his “partner” JetRanger had now reached the end of its service life.

An Asahi Shimbun photo (link) shows the aircraft pictured above being washed down after having been tested for radioactivity at Tokyo’s Haneda airport on March 15, 2011.

The last training flight made a point of flying over the Arahama Elementary School in Sendai, which in providing refuge for more than 300 people was the scene of some of the JetRanger rescue flights and has since been preserved as a memorial. A sister aircraft in the hangar at Sendai was one of the many aircraft that also fell victim to the forces of Nature that day.

The service’s association with the type dates back to the delivery of four JetRanger II aircraft in June 1973. One was written off in a fortunately non-fatal crash off the coast of Ehime Prefecture in June 1988 and replaced in June 1991, and the other three disposed of in June 1996, following the arrival of three JetRanger IIIs that March.

jcg2ndRegionb206(2)fromPR(Photo: Japan Coast Guard)

The training responsibility baton has now been fully passed to the four Bell 505 JetRanger X helicopters acquired last year.

Tsunami Remembrance Observed at Matsushima AB

Matsushima 190311(Photo: JASDF Matsushima AB)

(March 11, 2019) On the occasion of the eighth anniversary of the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake, the Japanese flag at Matsushima AB was lowered today in memory of its nearly 16,000 victims. Across Japan, a minute’s silence was observed at 2:46 p.m., the time at which the earthquake struck.

Reconstruction is still in progress at the base, which was quickly inundated up to a depth of two metres by the tsunami triggered by the earthquake. All the 900 or so base personnel successfully sought refuge by climbing onto the roofs of buildings.

Fortunately, the Blue Impulse hangar in the background of the photo was largely empty that afternoon. The team were at Ashiya AB in Fukuoka Prefecture for a display—planned for the following day but immediately cancelled—to mark the full opening of the Kyushu bullet train line.

A spare Blue Impulse T-4 was among the 28 JASDF aircraft that suffered damage. Eighteen of those 28 were F-2Bs, one of which had been unceremoniously shunted into a building next to a hangar; 13 were eventually repaired.

Matsushima March 2011(Photo: JASDF)

The photo above shows the devastation wrought by the tsunami at the exact same spot, where the base’s open-air collection of then six former JASDF aircraft was located; the Starfighter can be made out on the right. Like the base itself serving as a symbol of reconstruction, all the aircraft in the collection were cleaned up and returned to display, but only three now remain in situ. The F-86D and T-33A had been removed by 2016; minus its wings, the T-6G was present on the base dump in August 2018.

Final Curtain Falling on 302nd Sqn Phantoms

302 Sqn 190302(Photo: JASDF Hyakuri AB)

(March 2, 2019) While the sun is slowly sinking on the Heisei era, with Emperor Akihito’s abdication ceremony set for April 30, the end of the 302nd Sqn’s Phantom era was today initiated with a ceremony at Hyakuri.

As the 302nd is moving to Misawa to reform on the F-35A by taking the re-designated Provisional F-35A Squadron to full squadron status, the ceremony involved the squadron flag being handed over from the current 302nd Sqn commanding officer to his counterpart on the provisional squadron.

Former 302nd Sqn members were among those looking on as the two specially marked Phantoms were put through their paces in the skies over Hyakuri one last time.

Three-Year Flight Ban on OH-1s Lifted

Tachikawa OH-1 2013(Photo taken at Tachikawa, November 2013)

(March 1, 2019) As anticipated in a JGSDF press release dated February 28, 2019, the service today resumed full OH-1 fleet operations after a three year, three month hiatus.

It was on December 4, 2015, that a crew flying an OH-1 from the Tachikawa-based Eastern Region Helicopter Squadron had been forced to land at the National Defense Academy in Yokosuka, Kanagawa Prefecture, after experiencing engine difficulties.

Previously, on February 17, 2015, the crew of one the last OH-1s delivered had been forced to ditch 100 metres from the shore at Shirahama, Wakayama Prefecture. On that occasion members of the Central Region Helicopter Squadron at Yao, Mie Prefecture, both crewmen had fortunately managed to swim to safety, but the aircraft was written off. The entire OH-1 fleet had then been only temporarily grounded pending an investigation into the cause of the engine failure.

Investigations conducted after the second incident revealed that the performance of one of the helicopter’s two Mitsubishi TS1-M-10A engines had been impaired. This was the result of damage caused by excessive stress placed on its high-pressure turbine blades.

Following modifications to the shape of the offending blades, the addition of a 16th blade and a retrofit programme, the fleet of 37 aircraft has now been returned to service. According to today’s issue of Wing (link), the cost to modify and retrofit one engine was a cool 60 million yen.

The first OH-1 to retake to the air was an aircraft assigned to the Main Aviation School at Akeno, Mie Prefecture.

UH-X Protoype Delivered with Due Ceremony

UH-X delivery(Photo: JGSDF)

(February 28, 2019) Providing a follow-up to the earlier story (After One Month, JGSDF’s Newest Helicopter Carries Armament, January 23), the handover ceremony for the prototype New Utility Helicopter (UH-X) was today held at the SUBARU Corporation Aerospace Company’s Utsunomiya Plant.

It had been 13 years since the then Fuji Heavy Industries last delivered a new type of helicopter (an AH-64D) to the Ministry of Defense. Assuming the successful completion of Ministry of Defense testing, plans currently call for the procurement of an initial 34 aircraft between fiscal 2019 and fiscal 2023.

A video of the ceremony, which was attended by around 200 people, can be found on the JGSDF Facebook page (link). The two men shown giving speeches prior to the statutory tape-cutting ceremony are SUBARU President and CEO Tomomi Nakamura and Hirokazu Hokazono, deputy commissioner at the Ministry of Defense’s Acquisition, Technology and Logistics Agency (ATLA).

JGSDF Woman Pilot Achieves Unique Goal

JGSDF LR-2 pilot Ono(Photo: JGSDF)

(February 27, 2019) The JGSDF today showed off 1st Lt. Yumiko Ono, the first woman cleared to command a JGSDF fixed-wing aircraft, which these days means the LR-2.

Having undergone assessment and passed with flying colours, she was paraded before the media at JGSDF Kisarazu, where she will be based with the 1st Helicopter Brigade’s Liaison/Reconnaissance Flight.

It was in August 2015 that 1st Lt. Ono had appeared in the news in a brief Sankei Shimbun report (link), looking a picture of concentration as she conducted her pre-flight checks in preparation for her first training mission. Then her goal had been to become an LR-2 pilot; she has now taken that a significant step further.

F-2B Crashes into Sea, Both Pilots Rescued

JASDF Matsushima F-2B(Photo: JASDF Matsushima AB via JASDF Public Affairs Office)

(February 20, 2019)  One of a trio of F-2s that departed Tsuiki on a training mission at around 08:50 this morning crashed into the Sea of Japan around 30 minutes later. The aircraft was at that time operating near or within a dedicated training zone off Mishima, an island in Hagi, Yamaguchi Prefecture, around 130 kilometers northeast of its base.

An instructor pilot with the rank of captain in his 30s and a student pilot first lieutenant in his 20s, the two crew members ejected safely. They were discovered 50 minutes later waving a signal flare from a small life raft by an Air Rescue Wing U-125A, picked up by helicopter and found to have sustained only minor injuries. The search for the aircraft was continuing.

This was the first training accident involving a JASDF combat aircraft since July 2011, when an F-15J pilot lost his life in an incident off Okinawa. This was also the first loss of an F-2 on a training mission, although two Tsuiki-based pilots had another lucky escape last November (see Bulletin Board story ‘Telling Tales of F-2 Tails’). Two pilots were injured when their F-2B crashed on takeoff and burst into flames at Nagoya airport on October 20, 2007, following maintenance at Mitsubishi; the cause was found to have been a wiring fault.

In standard response to this latest incident, the JASDF is conducting safety checks of all its fighter aircraft and suspending all F-2 training flights for the time being.

Postscript As reported in a JASDF press release, dated February 27, 2019, the F-2 fleet was returned to full operations from February 28. An investigation had revealed that, during air combat maneuvering, the front-seat (trainee) pilot had induced a stall from which even the instructor was unable to recover before the minimum safety height for ejection was reached. Precautionary checks of the throttle and control systems were carried out, and all F-2 pilots were to receive additional simulator training to avoid a recurrence.

Tranquility Base

C-2 Miho 190219(Photo: JASDF Miho AB via JASDF Public Affairs Office)

(February 19, 2019) Following snowfall that had turned to rain, a 403rd Sqn C-2 sits on the mirror-like ramp at Miho air base. The supplied photo caption likened the image to a scene from Uyuni in Bolivia, home to the world’s largest salt flats that are famed for the spectacular reflections created in the rainy season from December to February.

The 403rd’s seventh aircraft, the ninth aircraft built, was ferried to Miho early this month, while the 10th aircraft was flown for the first time, as usual from Gifu AB, on January 29.

As Miho marked its 60th anniversary in 2018, J-HangarSpace hopes to work on a history of the base in the near future.

After One Month, JGSDF’s Newest Helicopter Carries Armament

UH-X (MoDviaWC)The Bell 421EPI-based UH-X prototype photographed at SUBARU Corporation’s Utsunomiya facility
prior to its first flight on Christmas Day, 2018.
(Photo: Japan Ministry of Defense)

(January 23, 2019) The April 2019 issue of JWings magazine contains photos, taken on January 22 and 23, 2019, of the UH-X prototype during flight testing within the boundary of the SUBARU Corporation facility at Utsunomiya, Tochigi Prefecture.

Just under a month after its maiden flight, the photos show the aircraft equipped with side-mounted Type 87 anti-tank mine dispensers, of the type shown “in action” in the photo below.

JGSDF UH-1J Type 87 mine dispenserA JGSDF UH-1J scatters anti-tank mines during the military exercise held at the Mt. Fuji training
ground in August 2011. (Photo: Takeshi Kuboki via Wikimedia Commons)

When fully laden with 36 mines (link), each panier weighs around 700kg, so perhaps they are also serving as ballast and simulating fully laden troops standing on the skids, to confirm the aircraft’s handling under extreme operational conditions.

Manufactured primarily by Fuji Heavy Industries (FHI, now SUBARU) and Ishikawa Seisakusho—the 2.6 metre-long covers were made by a truck trailer maker called Nippon Trailmobile (now Nippon Trex) in Toyokawa, Aichi Prefecture—the dispensers were once also capable of scattering anti-personnel mines. In accordance with the ratification of an international convention banning the use, storage, production and transfer of such weapons, these had been removed from the JGSDF’s arsenal by 2003.

It was July 2015 when the Bell 412EPI was selected as the base aircraft to fulfill the service’s UH-X requirement for a UH-1J successor, with a potential production run of around 140 aircraft. In early September that year the then FHI signed a contract with the Japan Ministry of Defense covering the production of a prototype. An initial buy of six was included in the 2019 budget.

At a time when the budget-draining Osprey tilt-rotor had already been selected, the type offered benefits on the basis of cost and in being a low-risk adaptation of a civil type that is already in service with Japanese police and prefectural air units, not to mention SUBARU’s historical links with Bell Helicopter. Another major plus point is that the UH-X offers twin PT6T engine performance and safety not enjoyed by those flying the UH-1J, a factor of particular importance with the north (Hokkaido) to south (Okinawa and outlying islands) shift of SDF operations involving more overwater flights. In having a four-blade main rotor, the UH-X will offer almost double the range of the twin-blade UH-1J but still be inferior to the more muscular UH-60JA.

Ministry of Defense Announces Budget Awards

JASDF C-2 upper surfacesA banking C-2 shows off its distinctive “countershade” camouflage, which is rendered somewhat less
effective by the high-viz
hinomaru. The FY2019 defense budget includes funding for two more of this
type, which will bring the cumulative procurement of production aircraft up to a total of 13; the
eighth aircraft is due to enter squadron service by the end of March. (Photo: JASDF Miho AB)

(January 18, 2019) And the winner is . . . The Japan Ministry of Defense today released its publication Defense Programs and Budget of Japan, which provides an overview of each service’s FY2019 procurement.

In terms of big price tag approvals for new aircraft, six more F-35As costing 91.6 billion yen (around US$825 million) top the JASDF shopping list, which means that a total of 40 aircraft have been procured since FY2012. Six have been funded in each of the past five budgets.

Misawa F-35A (MoD)For the fifth consecutive year, this latest budget included provision for six F-35As. A total of 40 are now 
on order, of which the 12th is due to enter flight testing next month.
(Photo: Japan Ministry of Defense)

Consequently, the ongoing programs to upgrade front-line aircraft this time involve just two F-15Js. In the year that will see the Misawa-based units relocate to Hyakuri, F-2 funding is confined to the parts to enable capability improvements on seven aircraft.

As the number of C-1s in service declines, emphasis is not surprisingly being placed on maintaining the pace of the type’s replacement. For a mere 45.7 billion yen (US$412 million), two more C-2s will bring the cumulative procurement of production aircraft up to a total of 13; the Ministry of Defense publication quotes a C-2 unit cost, minus engines, of 16.5 billion yen (US$149 million). In the meantime, the eighth aircraft is due to enter squadron service by the end of March.

Although other sources have quoted a buy of nine E-2Ds, the 54.4 billion yen (US$490 million) announced covers two aircraft, with separate funds allocated for long lead-time items for a further seven.

JASDF F-2A (5)crsA 3rd Sqn F-2A takes off from Misawa, where snow is receding. It is planned that this unit will relocate to
Hyakuri in Ibaraki Prefecture by the end of March 2020.
(Photo: Japan Ministry of Defense)

At the bottom of the list hides the 8.1 billion yen (US$73 million) for a single RQ-4B Global Hawk long-endurance UAV, which follows on from and matches the initial procurement in the previous budget.

Missing this year was funding for the third KC-46A planned under the Medium-Term Defense Program that runs until the end of March; one aircraft had been funded under each of the two previous budgets.

There being no unexpected additions to the 17 V-22B Ospreys bought between FY2015 and FY2018, the field was left clear for the purchase of six UH-X helicopters for 11 billion yen (US$99 million). Based on the Bell 412EPI, the type’s service designation (UH-1K, UH-2?) will only be announced once the type is officially approved for service. The prototype commenced flight testing on Christmas Day 2018. (See January 23 story above.)

Pressure from its sister services, combined with the funds required to replace and upgrade its ships, meant that it was a case of “goodbye kitty” for new JMSDF aircraft procurement. Funding is limited to service life extension program work on five P-3Cs, which will also be among those receiving radar equipment upgrades, two SH-60Js and three SH-60Ks; the work on these 10 aircraft alone accounts for 9.9 billion yen (US$89 million).

23rdFAStrngwithJCG161018Normally shore based at Maizuru, Kyoto Prefecture, a 23rd Fleet Air Sqn SH-60K is refueled on board
the Japan Coast Guard
Hida-class patrol vessel Kiso during a training exercise in
October 2016.
(Photo: JMSDF Public Affairs Office)

The new ship allocation makes 99.5 billion yen (nearly US$900 million) provision for two more of the new 3,900-ton, helicopter-capable multirole destroyers to add to the two ordered under the previous budget.


Ashiya calendarA specially marked Kawasaki T-4 from the 13th Flying Training Wing at Ashiya, Fukuoka Prefecture.
The photo is taken from a one-page calendar that appeared in the January 1, 2019, issue of  the
base magazine, Ashiya (link). (Photo: JASDF Ashiya AB)

JCG Woman Pilot Gets Pair of Pumas for Christmas

YUkari Fukuda JCG Puma pilotThe now Puma pilot Yukari Fukuda appeared in a photo the JCG released on its Twitter account in
July 2018 to highlight the important role that women in play in its operations. A photo of her when
a co-pilot at JCG Sendai had appeared in an article in
Japan Coast Guard Report 2011.
(Photo: Japan Coast Guard)

(December 25, 2018) Whereas the first women cleared to fly a JGSDF attack helicopter made the headlines last year (see Bulletin Board story for July 2017), Japan Coast Guard helicopter pilot Yukari Fukuda (35) has quietly received official recognition of another no less significant achievement.

At a ceremony held today, the commander of Haneda Air Station presented Fukuda with written confirmation that she had become the first woman cleared to captain the JCG’s largest helicopter type, the EC225LP (H225) Super Puma, two of which are based at Haneda.

It was 2000 when Yōko Namba became the JCG’s first woman helicopter captain, flying the Bell 212 with the 4th Region from Chubu International Airport. Today, only two are qualified, Fukuda and Mihoko Horita, who qualified as the JCG’s first woman instructor pilot in 2016 and is currently assigned to the JCG’s Miyagi Branch School at Sendai Air Station.

JCG EC225LPThe first of the two EC225LP (now Airbus Helicopters H225) Super Pumas currently based at Haneda
entered service in January 2015. Coinciding with Fukuda’s promotion, the second aircraft—also
Inuwashi (Golden Eagle)—was assigned on December 22, 2018, to replace an AS332L-1
that had been decommissioned the day before. Two other EC225LPs, both named
Akitaka, are
normally based on board the patrol vessel
Akitsutshima. (Photo: Japan Coast Guard)

A member of an aviation club when a university student, Fukuda joined the JCG after graduating in April 2005. A JCG helicopter pilot since 2007, when she completed training on the Bell 206, she had previously been cleared to fly the Bell 212/412 and the AW139. As reported in the March 2019 issue of Kōkū Fan magazine, Fukuda has been assigned to the 3rd Air Region at Haneda since April 2018.

Postscript Airbus Helicopters announced the receipt of a follow-on order for an additional H225 from the JCG on March 7, 2019. Following the retirement of the AS332L-1 in December, the service should have two AS332L-1s and 11 H225s in service when this aircraft is delivered.

Deep Pockets to Produce “Pocket Carriers”

Izumo BlechnerThis view of the JMSDF helicopter carrier Izumo and destroyer Sazanami flanking a U.S. Navy oiler
provides a good size comparison. Commissioned as recently as March  2015, the Izumo
is to be converted to permit the operation of F-35B fighters.
(Photo [July 2017, by U.S. Navy Petty Officer First Class Micah Blechner]: JMSDF)

(December 21, 2018) The Japanese government today endorsed a 101.46 trillion yen ($912 billion) national budget for the fiscal year starting April 1, 2019, 5.26 trillion yen ($47 billion, 5.18%) of which will be allocated to defence. This represents the fifth successive year of record Japanese spending on defence.

Controversially included is the initial funding for the conversion of the helicopter carrier Izumo to enable, in extremis, the combat operation of the short takeoff/vertical landing (STOVL) F-35B Lightning II, 42 of which are planned to be introduced under new defence guidelines; each costs around 10 billion yen ($90 million).

It is envisaged that both of the already multifunctional Izumo-class carriers would be converted, the first being completed within the timeframe of the new five-year defence plan that will thus run until March 2024. Weighing in at a mere 27,000 tons displacement, these 250 metre-long vessels can normally carry a mix of up to 14 anti-submarine and minesweeping helicopters and have the ability to launch or recover five of them at a time. Although the conversion plan had long been suspected, prompting successive defence ministers to give evasive answers to journalists under questioning, it is reported that the decks and elevators were built to accommodate the operations of up to 10 F-35Bs from the outset. The main work will thus involve the installation of a ski-jump structure.

The big ticket aircraft for the JASDF this time are another six F-35A Lightning IIs, as Japan is now planning a total buy of 105 F-35As to replace some of its fleet of F-15J Eagles in addition to the F-4EJKai Phantoms that are in the process of bowing out. Also being submitted to the Diet for final approval next month are the purchases of two C-2 transports and a single RQ-4B Global Hawk UAV.

Tokyo Aviation Photography Exhibition, December 13–15 / 17–19, 2018

Sky Moments 2018
Over the years, Japanese aviation photographers have built an enviable reputation for producing stunning images—like that from former fighter pilot Satoshi Akatsuka used for the publicity postcard (above)—which the advances in digital technology have taken to new heights.

Every year, the Japan Association of Aviation Photographers (linked on the right-hand side of this homepage) holds an exhibition in Tokyo. This free-entry event gives the chance to see some of their efforts in all their glory, framed on walls rather than in miniature in the pages of magazines and books, which sometimes do their efforts, and the subject matter, less than justice. Those subjects cover flight in all its forms, including gliding and skydiving.

The Sirius Gallery venue on the 2F level of the Aidem Headquarters Building (link) is two minutes’ walk along the street from Shinjuku-Gyoemmae Station on the Tokyo Metro Marunouchi Line. Opening hours: 10:00–18:00, final day 10:00–15:00.

Telling Tales of F-2 Tails

Tsuiki F-2 special markings 2018Each of the two resident 8th Air Wing F-2 squadrons at Tsuiki prepared a specially marked
aircraft—that from the 6th TFS (nearest the camera) and the 8th TFS—in good time
for the base air show held on November 25.
(Photo: JASDF Tsuiki AB)

(Late November 2018) Two Tsuiki-based F-2s were among the latest in the long line of JASDF front-line aircraft that have received special temporary markings ahead of a home-base air show or commemorative event.

The 6th TFS representative featured a red bird, outlined in yellow, on an enlarged version of its standard disc tail marking (seemingly black on the right side, standard dark blue camouflage on the left) of crossed swords over a bow and arrow. The photo (below) shows the squadron’s 見敵必殺 (‘sure to slay an enemy on sight’) motto in red on its yellow fin tip and the banner slogan ロクスコ60周年まであと1年! (A Year till 6th Sqn’s 60th Anniversary! [on August 1, 2019]), with a tiny, modest ヨロシクね!! (Please remember!!) underneath.

Tsuiki 6 Sqn tail markingThe first version of the 6th TFS’s tail marking design for the
2018 Tsuiki air show
  (Photo: JASDF Tsuiki AB)

In admittedly something of a juxtaposition with the militaristic squadron motto and marking, a cartoon-like face was applied next to the banner slogan. The face was identified by the other Japanese applied on both sides of the tailfin

きづき のぼる
「築 上」君

as that of Kizukinoboru, the mascot of the nearby town of Chikujō (link).

A newspaper article in the morning edition of the Fukuoka-based Nishi Nippon Shimbun for November 15 carried reports of some Chikujō residents being up in arms about the design. They objected to their popular local mascot appearing with an anachronistic military motto that dates back to the Imperial Japanese Naval Air Force era, albeit one with which the 6th Sqn, resident at Tsuiki since 1964, has long been associated. The town council had decided to convene a special meeting to discuss its response, with some councillors feeling that they should request that the mascot, even if only a temporary addition, be deleted immediately. As this photo (link), taken on the day of the air show (Nov. 25) reveals, they were successful in their “people power” request—plastic model manufacturers beware.

Thus far no photos have revealed the details of the paint crew names originally listed forward of the tailplane on the left-hand side—perhaps these were diplomatically removed, too. (The origins of the 6th Sqn’s permanent marking are given on the Squadron Histories Part 1 page of this website.)

Thankfully courting no controversy, the 8th Sqn fell back on its tried and trusted Panther call-sign for the inspiration of its tail marking design (link). As seen here on the left side (link), the design primarily comprised a yellow outline of a panther’s head above the inscription 第8戦術戦闘飛行隊 (8th Tactical Fighter Squadron) and below a yellow fin tip bearing the words BLACK PANTHERS, with grey paw and scratch marks added as decoration. The ‘8’ of the serial number, both on the tail and on the nose, was highlighted in yellow. The January 2019 issue of Kōkū Fan magazine reports the obscure fact that the ‘8’ on the nosewheel door (link) appears as it once did on the squadron’s cap.

The tail of an 8th Sqn F-2 had made the news earlier in the month, however, having sustained superficial damage when two aircraft had bumped into each over the sea on the afternoon of November 2; the other had received damage to a wingtip missile launcher. Having been conducting visual checks of each other’s aircraft at the end of a training exercise, both pilots landed safely. Also happily, their aircraft had otherwise only received more realistic panther-like scratches and were taken in for some minor repairs and a lick of paint.

Tsuiki F-2 special markings (2)(Photo: JASDF Tsuiki AB)

Iruma Air Show’s Enduring Appeal

Iruma 2018 (1)Aerial view of Iruma’s 50th air show, November 3, 2018 (Photo: JASDF Iruma AB)

(November 5, 2018) Iruma AB has announced that around 190,000 people attended its air show, which was held as usual on the Culture Day national holiday (November 3). What was Iruma’s 50th air show coincided with celebrations marking the base’s 60th anniversary.

As the chart below shows, the figure is roughly on par with a typical year, but down on the 223,000 average over the last 10 years.

2009 220,000 2012 220,000 2015 200,000
2010 280,000 2013 320,000 2016 130,000
2011 170,000 2014 290,000 2017 210,000
    2018 190,000    

Iruma 2013Amid the record-breaking 320,000 at Iruma, November 3, 2013

The consistently high attendance can be attributed to a number of factors: the base’s location, close to a densely populated catchment area that includes Tokyo (in comparison, the Gifu AB show usually attracts around 60,000); the well-practiced ability of the Seibu-Ikebukuro Line to deliver mass hordes to the tiny train station (Inariyama-koen) literally on the base’s doorstep, only 40 minutes from the line’s direct departure point in the capital; and the no admission fee show being a fixture on the Blue Impulse aerobatic team’s display calendar.

In the all-important weather department, the Kanto region enjoys a high percentage of sunny days, even in November. Surprisingly, the nose-dive in attendance in 2016 was not due to bad weather on the day—the Blue Impulse performed a full programme under clear blue skies—but to the forecast on the previous cold and cloudy day that had predicted rain for at least part of the show’s standard 9:00 a.m. to 3 p.m. duration.

Depending on the day of the week on which the November 3 Culture Day holiday falls, the show can also benefit from being held on a three-day weekend. This was a contributory factor in the spike in attendance in both 2013 and 2014. In the case of 2013, the last time J-HangarSpace visited, an added boost was provided by the popularity of a novel-based TV drama, Sora Tobu Kōhōshitsu (literally Flying PR Office), which was filmed at Iruma.

Iruma 2018 (2)(Photo [2018]: JASDF Iruma AB)

This is all a far cry from the around 30,000 people who witnessed the very first Iruma air show held on November 11, 1962, the only time the single event has not been held on November 3, which local superstition deems to be an auspicious day weather wise. Even on bad weather days, the event would then attract 20,000, and a not surprising record of 800,000 came to Iruma on October 10–13, 1968, when the seventh show was held during the course of the 2nd Tokyo Aerospace Show, which Iruma hosted (link). That event attracted European military aircraft and the Hien fighter now displayed at the Gifu-Kakamigahara Air and Space Museum.

In contrast, this year’s Japan International Aerospace Exhibition Tokyo 2018 (November 28–30) is being held in two halls of the Tokyo Big Sight exhibition centre, where a couple of real helicopters might be displayed on the stands with an F-35A mock-up again outside.

Blue Impulse Iruma 1978The Blue Impulse team during their 446th display on the F-86F, Iruma, November 3, 1978
(Photo: Takao Kadokami)

The Blue Impulse team made its F-86F debut at the Iruma air show in 1962. Iruma’s days as a home to F-86Fs came to an end with a ceremony held on February 8, 1982, the same year that the team’s T-2s took part in the base air show for the first time. The Blue Impulse T-4s made their debut at Iruma in 1996, during the 29th air show.

Iruma 2013 show“The party’s over, it’s time to call it a day . . .”

(In due course, more details about Iruma will be included in a base history.)

Iruma Totes Toned-down T-4

JASDF Central low-viz T-4(Photo: JASDF)

(October 25, 2018) Around the time their neighbours at the 2nd Tactical Airlift Group were applying the finishing touches to their flamboyant, kabuki-themed C-1 (see October 21 story), members of the Iruma-based Central Air Command Support Squadron were taking an opposite tack.

As revealed in a press release today, one of the resident T-4s (above) has been given a low-visibility makeover, which has included replacing the standard red, yellow and blue tail marking (as shown below) with two shades of grey and black. Marking Iruma’s 60th anniversary, this aircraft can be added to the list of those that will be certain to be on display at the November 3 air show.

Iruma T-4

Although the press release states that these temporary markings are not only for PR purposes but also to boost morale, some Central Air Command personnel must be casting envious glances across the apron at that 2nd TAG C-1.

Japan Coast Guard’s First Falcon 2000 Unveiled

Japan Coast Guard Falcon 2000(Photo: Dassault Aviation)

(October 23, 2018) Dassault Aviation took the opportunity presented by this year’s National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) trade show—held in Orlando, Florida, October 16–18—to release a photo, with the JCG’s permission, of the first of the five special mission Falcon 2000s the service has on order.

Far from the plush interior of the long-range Falcon 2000LXS executive jet on which it was based, this maritime surveillance aircraft (MSA) variant is kitted out for multiple missions, ranging from search and rescue to surveillance and interdiction.

Two aircraft of this type are due to enter service in the first half of 2019, meaning that the two Falcon 900 tri-jets acquired in 1989 are edging a little closer to retirement—the first is seen here at Haneda in December 2003 (link).

The two new aircraft, and a third to follow later in 2019, are destined to be flown from Naha, Okinawa. They will form an integral part of a 24-hour patrol system to be implemented in the East China Sea in the vicinity of the uninhabited Senkaku Islands, the Japanese control of which is disputed by both China and Taiwan.

“Kabuki” C-1 Ready to Take Centre Stage

Kabuki C-1 (1)(Photo: JASDF Iruma AB)

(Oct. 21, 2018) The JASDF’s 2nd Tactical Airlift Group has painted one of its C-1s to mark its 60th anniversary. Although there was a plan to hold a commemorative event at its Iruma home base on October 5, Typhoon No. 24 forced its postponement until late November.

The 2nd TAG’s constituent 402nd Sqn has celebrated the anniversaries of its parent unit in a similar fashion twice before: the 40th in 1998 (link); and the 50th in 2008 (link).

At first glance, J-HangarSpace mistakenly thought that the aircraft this time had been painted to resemble a decorative koi (carp). As revealed in the December issue of Kōkū Fan, which went on sale today (see image on homepage), the theme for the latest limelight-grabbing, (air)show-stealing design is actually kabuki. A kabuki actor’s heavy eye makeup can be made out around the cockpit windows (below).

Kabuki C-1 (3)In this case the kanji on the forward fuselage (shiki 式) means celebration. (Photo: JASDF Iruma AB)

Proposed by a 402nd Sqn flight engineer, Master Sgt Shōta Gotō, the design also features a kabuki actor’s face on the tail, engine nacelles and, most prominently (when circumstances permit), on the upper surfaces of the wings. The latter will no doubt prompt a forest of upturned telephoto lenses when the aircraft is shown off to good effect before the crowds at this year’s Iruma air show (like so [link]). As tradition dictates, this is planned for the November 3 Culture Day national holiday, so a fitting stage for a kabuki-influenced design*.

Kabuki C-1 (4)As was the case in 2008 (link), the engine nacelles also provided a canvas. (Photo: JASDF Iruma AB)

The only thing is, as the 2nd TAG was formed in 1978, by J-HangarSpace’s reckoning that actually makes it only the 40th anniversary . . .

* Among the other commemorative aircraft likely to be present are the F-4EJKai bearing the words “302sq F-4 final Year 2019” (video link) and, in more subdued fashion, a U-125 and a U-125A bearing stickers quietly proclaiming the 60th anniversaries of the Flight Check Group and Air Rescue Wing, respectively.

A Tale of Two T-5s . . .

JA8222The new-look JA8222 (Photo: Japan Ministry of Defense/ATLA)

(October 17, 2018) A 35-minute flight today marked the start of a test flight programme, being conducted by the Japan Ministry of Defense’s Acquisition, Technology and Logistics Agency, involving what was once the prototype of the JMSDF’s T-5 trainer.

Seen here landing back at the SUBARU Corporation’s Utsunomiya airfield on October 22 (link), the aircraft has undergone modification to conduct research into systems integration technologies. These technologies are intended for an optionally piloted vehicle (OPV) system equipped with a compact infrared sensor necessary for tracking ballistic missiles. Some of the JMSDF’s P-3Cs and its sole UP-3C are equipped with the same type of sensor, which is known as the Advanced Infrared Ballistic missile Observation Sensor System or AIRBOSS.

This same aircraft has already undergone several transformations since its first flight as KM-2D JA8222 all of 34 years ago, on June 28, 1984 (seen here in 1996, link). Having subsequently been used for both the (then Fuji) T-5 and T-7 programmes, the aircraft was looking decidedly sorry for itself at Utsunomiya airfield in May 2015 (link) before being removed to commence its new lease of life.

Meanwhile, at the other end of the country, a T-5 of the JMSDF’s 201st Air Training Squadron (link) was specially painted for this month’s Ozuki “Swell Festa” air show to mark the 150th anniversary of the Meiji Restoration of 1868. As part of Yamaguchi Prefecture’s Shogunate Restoration Festival, the aircraft’s tail carries an image of Shinsaku Takasugi (1839–1867, link). A central figure in the movement to overthrow the Tokugawa Shogunate, Takasugi died from tuberculosis before its successful conclusion.

. . . and a JASDF T-7

Hofu-Kita T-7 2018(Photo: JASDF Hofu-Kita AB website gallery)

A JASDF T-7 from the 12th Flying Training Wing at Hofu-Kita, also in Yamaguchi Prefecture, has worn the Shogunate Restoration Festival’s logo at the base air show for each of the past two years. More details can be found in the pictorial history of 12th FTW special markings recently added to the JASDF Squadron Histories Part 2 page.

More Hawkeyes on JASDF Procurement Radar

E-2D )NG)(Photo: Northrop Grumman)

(September 12, 2018) Many Japanese media outlets and the FlightGlobal.com site have reported that the U.S. government has given Tokyo the green light to procure nine additional E-2D Advanced Hawkeye airborne early warning & control (AEW&C) aircraft in a deal potentially worth up to $3.1 billion. Also included are 28 Rolls-Royce T56-A-427A engines and 10 spare Lockheed Martin APY-9 radars.

Having raised its initial January 2015 order for a single E-2D to four aircraft that June, this could mean that Japan will ultimately replace its entire E-2C fleet on a one-for-one basis.

The JASDF acquisition of E-2Cs was triggered by the service’s failure to intercept a wave-hopping MiG-25 flown by defecting Soviet pilot Viktor Belenko, who infamously landed at Hakodate airport way back in September 1976. Following a first flight from Grumman’s Bethpage facility in May 1982, a pair of aircraft was used for crew training in the United States before being transported by sea to Kisarazu, Chiba Prefecture, in January 1983. The last of the 13 E-2Cs drip-fed into service arrived in 1994.

Since taking to the air for the first time in October 2017 (see Bulletin Board entry for November 13, 2017, below), the first E-2D destined for Japan has been engaged on a test programme. It could be that history will repeat itself by the end of this year, with a pair of E-2Ds arriving in Japan nearly 36 years after those first E-2Cs.

SDF Mobilized in Response to Hokkaido Earthquake

UH-1J OkadamaA UH-1J from the Northern Region Helicopter Squadron 2nd Flight departs Okadama at 03:40,
half an hour after the earthquake struck.
(Photo: JGSDF)

(September 6, 2018) Following hard on their heavy involvement in the aftermath of torrential rains in western Japan in July, and only two days after the most powerful typhoon to hit Japan in 25 years made landfall in the Shikoku area, SDF elements were once again called into action. On this occasion, it was in response to a massive earthquake that struck southern Hokkaido this morning at 03:08.

Press releases issued by the Ministry of Defense recorded the scale and timeline of the well-orchestrated first response efforts of all three services. It is from these that the following brief account, focusing on the air operations, was compiled.

Tasked with reconnaissance and information gathering, a pair of 3rd Air Wing F-2s took off from Misawa as early as 03:25, followed 15 minutes later by a UH-1J of each of the JGSDF’s 7th Aviation Squadron and Northern Region Helicopter Squadron from Okadama, Sapporo, the latter equipped to be able to relay images from the disaster-affected areas in real time. The two JGSDF units launched an additional UH-1J and an OH-6J, respectively, at 03:47, and another night vision-equipped UH-1J took off at 04:33. Also based at Okadama, the 11th Aviation Squadron contributed a UH-1J from 04:42.

At around 03:50, Aomori Prefecture-based JMSDF units had become involved in the information-gathering operations, a 25th Sqn SH-60J and a 2nd Air Wing P-3C being launched from Ohminato and Hachinohe, respectively.

Having initiated the response, the JASDF then committed a UH-60J from the Air Rescue Wing detachment at Sapporo’s Chitose AB to the fray at 04:16. Half an hour later, an E-2C Hawkeye from the Surveillance Group’s 601st Sqn at Misawa was sent on station.

RF-4EJ (3)As is often the case following a natural disaster, a reconnaissance Phantom took off from Hyakuri in
daylight hours (in this case at just after 09:00) to provide damage assessment images.
(Photo: JASDF)

It was at 06:00 that the Hokkaido Governor made a formal request to the commander of the JGSDF’s 7th Brigade for the dispatch of units to initiate rescue operations and assist in the supply of water; the same request was made to the 11th Brigade at 09:00. A four-vehicle advance guard from a specialized rapid reaction unit attached to the 7th Brigade had actually left its Higashi-Chitose barracks in Sapporo shortly after 04:00 and arrived in the worst-hit town of Atsuma, in eastern Iburi, at 06:18. Elsewhere, ground units were by this time already converging on the area; the first advance party arrived in the city of Tomakomai at 05:51.

Northeastern UH-1JFuneoka Army Camp, Miyagi Prefecture, September 6. Equipment to be airlifted to Hokkaido is loaded
onto a Northeastern Army UH-1J.
(Photo: JGSDF Northeastern Army)

The involvement of helicopter-capable JMSDF vessels commenced with the tank-landing ship Ōsumi leaving its home port of Kure for Sendai at 07:27, and the Shirase, home from its normal duties as an Antarctic research icebreaker, making for Tomakomai from Yokosuka to provide floating heliport support at just before 09:00.

Operations during the course of the first day involved 4,900 SDF personnel (of a planned total of 25,000 or so), 20 aircraft and four SDF ships. With initial disaster response elements deployed at several pinpointed locations, air and sea operations switched to the logistics of bringing in relief supplies in support of them.

Oosumi SendaiHaving left its homeport of Kure in the morning of September 6, the JMSDF tank landing craft Ōsumi
takes on board vehicles from the JGSDF’s 2nd Division the following day at Sendai,
prior to heading for Tomakomai.
(Photo: JMSDF Public Affairs Office)

C-2 Iruma(Above and below) A pair of Miho-based C-2 transports arrived at Iruma AB on September 6 to
commence the airlifting of personnel, supplies and equipment to Chitose.

C-2 Iruma (2)(Photos: JASDF Public Affairs Office)

Postscript As at September 10, 35 of the earthquake’s 39 fatalities had occurred in Atsuma, which was ravaged by massive landslides and where a (fortunately) coal-fired power station was put out of action, contributing to the loss of power to Hokkaido’s entire population of 5.4 million. As at 08:00 that day, the SDF’s disaster relief operations had involved 25,100 personnel, 46 aircraft and seven ships plus the requisitioned civilian high-speed catamaran ferry, Natchan World; 146 people had been rescued.

First JASDF Woman Jet Jockey Qualifies

Misa Matsushima1st Lt. Misa Matsushima looks out from her ‘office’. (Photo: JASDF Public Affairs Office)

(August 24, 2018) Following on from the first Japanese woman to be cleared to fly a JGSDF combat helicopter in July 2017 (see Bulletin Board report), 1st Lt. Misa Matsushima (26) successfully cleared an even higher bar by becoming the first Japanese woman to qualify as a jet fighter pilot. On August 23, she received her initial course completion certificate from the Tactical Fighter Training Group commanding officer at a ceremony held at Nyutabaru AB.

Having graduated from the National Defense Academy in March 2014, Yokohama-born Matsushima joined the JASDF, obtained her pilot’s wings in October 2016 and had initially intended to become a transport or rescue helicopter pilot, non-combat types having been an option open to women since 1993.

Fate took a hand when her path through training coincided with the JASDF’s lifting of gender restrictions on personnel becoming fighter and reconnaissance aircraft pilots in November 2015, opening the way for Matsushima to switch to the fighter pilot stream. She commenced F-15J training in October last year and, now assigned to the 5th Air Wing’s 305th Tactical Fighter Squadron, will remain at Nyutabaru for at least another six months while completing advanced operational training. Three other women are currently undergoing training to follow in her contrails.

Despite Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s 2013 pledge to improve the position of women in all workplaces, Japan dropped from 111th to 114th (out of 144) in the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2017 rankings. As the listing below shows, the JASDF is thus perhaps not surprisingly among the latecomers to the ranks of air arms that have women qualified on frontline jets.

First Women Pilots Qualified on Frontline Jet Aircraft by Air Arm

Air Arm Pilot Name(s) (Aircraft Type) Date
Algerian AF 2nd Lt. Hakima Abdessamad (MiG-17) 1982
Royal Australian AF (Six-woman training course) (F/A-18) Dec. 2017
Royal Belgian AF Capt. Anne-Marie Janssen (F-16) 1997
Brazilian AF Capt. Carla Alexandre Borges (AM-X) May 2011
Royal Canadian AF Maj. Deanna Brasseur (CF-18) June 1999
Capt. Jane Foster
Chilean AF Karina Miranda Cottenie (F-5A) 2010
China PLAAF Capt. Yu Xu (1986–2016) 2009; (J-10) 2012
Czech Rep. AF Katerina Hlavsova (L-39) 2014
Royal Danish AF 2nd Lt. Line Bonde (F-16) 2006
Finnish AF Capt. Inka Niskanen (F/A-18) 2002
French AF Maj. Caroline Aigle (1974–2007) (Mirage 2000) 1999
German AF Maj. Ulrike Flender (Tornado) 2007
Hellenic AF Capt. Ioanna Chrysavgi (RF-4E) 2007
Indian AF F/O Avani Chaturvedi (MiG-21) Mar. 2018
Israeli AF  Lt. Roni Zuckerman (F-16) 2001
Italian AF Capt. Samantha Cristoforetti (AM-X) 2006
JASDF 1st Lt. Misa Matsushima (F-15J) Aug. 2018
Royal Netherlands AF 1st Lt. Manja Blok (F-16) 1993
Nigerian AF F/O Blessing Liman Apr. 2012
DPR of North Korea AF (Unknown) (MiG-21) 2015?
Royal Norwegian AF Capt. Mette Grotteland (F-5A) 1992
Pakistan AF Flt. Lt. Ayesha Farooq (J-7) 2013
Polish AF Lt. Katarzyna Tomiak-
(MiG-29) 2013
Rep. of Singapore AF Capt. Khoo Teh Lynn (F-16) 2003
Somalian AF Asli Hassan Abade (MiG-21) Sept. 1976
South African AF Maj. Catherine Labuschagne (Gripen) Oct. 2010
Rep. of Korea AF Capt. Ha Jeong-mi (F-16) 2007
Spanish AF Rosa María García-Malea Lopez (F/A-18) 2006
Royal Swedish AF Capt. Anna Dellham (Viggen) c. 1995
Swiss AF 1st Lt. Fanny Chollet (F/A-18) (2019)
Taiwan (ROC) AF (Five-woman training course) (Three to F-5A) 1993
Turkish AF (Name unknown) (F-5A) 1997?
UAE AF Mariam al-Mansouri (F-16) 2014
Royal Air Force Flt. Lt. Joanna Salter (Tornado) 1994
U.S. Air Force Brig. Gen. Jeannie Leavitt (F-15E) 1993
U.S. Marine Corps Lt. Col. Karen Fuller Brannen (A-4) 1996
U.S. Navy Lt. Carey Lohrenz (F-14A) 1993
U.S. Air National Guard Maj. Jackie Parker (F-16) 1993
Uruguayan AF Maj. Maria Eugenia Etcheverry (A-37B) 2002
Venezuelan AF (Name unknown) Nov. 2009
Zambian AF 2nd Lt. Thokozile Muwamba 2017

In Chronological Order

1976 Somalia 1997 Belgium, Turkey 2011 Brazil
1982 Algeria 1999 France 2012 Nigeria
1989 Canada 2001 Israel 2013 Pakistan, Poland
1992 Norway 2002 Finland, Uruguay 2014 Czech Republic
1993 Netherlands 2003 Singapore   UAE
  Taiwan 2006 Denmark, Italy 2015? North Korea
  U.S. Air Force 2007 Germany 2017 Australia
  U.S. Navy   Greece   Zambia
  U.S. ANG   South Korea 2018 India
1994 Royal Air Force 2009 China   Japan
1995? Sweden   Venezuela (2019) Russia*
1996 Israel 2010 Chile   Switzerland
  U.S. Marine Corps   South Africa    

(*) In August 2017, Russia announced that a 15-woman fighter pilot training course, the first since the end of the Soviet era, was to commence in October 2017.

According to the latest annual defence white paper, Defense of Japan 2017, at the time of the tri-service SDFs’ inauguration in July 1954, 144 women (0.1% of all SDF personnel) were restricted to the field of nursing. As of the end of March 2017, around 14,000 women accounted for 6.1% of the total, and the Ministry of Defense is targeting to increase the proportion of women on active service to more than 9% by 2030.

The JASDF’s first woman pilot, Kazue Kashiji, qualified as a transport pilot in 1997 and was promoted to pilot instructor with the rank of captain in 2003. Having subsequently been assigned to a flight coordination role, she eventually left the service and joined All Nippon Airways.

To complete the picture, the first woman to qualify on a JMSDF frontline aircraft was then Ensign Hiroko Miyamoto, who completed her P-3C training at Atsugi in February 1994. It should only be a matter of time before the first woman is assigned to a unit operating the JMSDF’s only frontline jet aircraft, the P-1.

First JASDF Boeing 777 Arrives

B777 JASDFPAO(Photo: JASDF Public Affairs Office)

(August 17, 2018) The first of two Boeing 777-300ER VIP transports to be operated by  the JASDF on behalf of the Japanese government today arrived at what will be its Chitose AB home to enable flight and maintenance crew familiarization training.

Plans call for the second aircraft to arrive in December and for the current pair of Boeing 747-400s to have been replaced, after 26 years’ sterling service, by late March 2019.

Postscript 1 Having arrived bearing the ferry registration N509BJ, the aircraft was carrying the serial 80-1111 when towed out of a hangar at Chitose on August 20.

Postscript 2 In December 2018, the Jiji Press news agency reported that the government was looking into the possibility of selling both 747s and the placing of parts and specialized items of equipment on display, possibly at Shin-Chitose airport.

Tragedy Now Befalls Gunma Prefectural Aviation Unit

Gunma Haruna

(August 10, 2018) What started as a simple 90-minute mission to check a mountain trail on the Gunma-Nagano border ahead of its opening to climbers ended in a crash that claimed the lives of all nine men aboard the Gunma Prefectural Disaster Prevention Aviation Unit’s Bell 412EP.

A four-man Gunma aviation unit crew, including two Toho Air Service employees, had departed their heliport base in Maebashi at around 09:15 and landed to pick up five firefighters at the Nishi-Agatsuma Welfare Hospital 20 minutes later. Contact with the helicopter was lost at around 10:00, and the aircraft subsequently revealed to have come down in a densely wooded mountainside in the Nakanojo district, near Mt. Yokote. The weather conditions at the time were cloudy with fog haze, and eyewitnesses reported that the aircraft had flown very low over a local hotel shortly before impact.

Coincidentally, neighbouring Nagano Prefecture’s Bell 412EP was lost in an accident in March 2017 (see report below) that also resulted in nine fatalities.

Postscript The crash investigation will be looking into why the flight crew reportedly did not follow the Toho Air Service-filed flight plan and apparent communication failures that resulted in not only the prefecture reporting to the Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Ministry that the aircraft had ‘returned safely’ but also a 47-minute delay in initiating a search. Although the aircraft involved was fitted with GPS last year, the Ministry is contemplating changing the Japanese law that stipulates that only helicopters with a maximum take-off weight of more than 7 tons are required to carry flight data recorders.

Air Rescue Wing Reaches Diamond Jubilee

ARW 60th(Photo: Air Rescue Wing, JASDF)

(June 2, 2018) Comprising top-ranking officers and officials as well as unit members past and present, a gathering of nearly 200 people today attended a ceremony to mark the 60th anniversary of the JASDF’s Air Rescue Wing (ARW) at its current Iruma headquarters.

It was in March 1958 that then Provisional Air Rescue Squadron was formed at Hamamatsu and equipped with T-6s and T-34s as well as H-19 helicopters. Six decades on from such lowly beginnings, the ARW’s high-tech UH-60J/U-125A pairings now operate as detachments from 11 bases, and its Chinook-equipped transport helicopter squadrons from four, including Iruma. Representatives from all these far-flung outposts were present, as were 16 previous commanding officers and seven members who had received commendations.

The organization has been known as the ARW since 1971. According to official operational statistics given in the August issue of Kōkū Fan, over the years of its existence the ARW has (as at May 31, 2018) carried out 248 air rescue missions, during which 149 people have been rescued, been launched to assist in disaster-stricken areas 2,492 times, rescued 6,693 people, and airlifted 1,188 patients and 14,279 personnel.

A service was held in the unit’s hangar, during which a minute’s silence was observed to remember the 55 ARW crew members who have lost their lives on active duty.

CH-47J ARW 60th logo(Photo: Air Rescue Wing, JASDF)

Unlike the flamboyant days of the 50th anniversary, when a blue eagle marking was applied to the fuselage of an MU-2S (link), a U-125A (link), KV-107 (link) and CH-47J, none of the unit’s aircraft received a special colour scheme in honour of the occasion; a couple of the unit’s U-125As continue to sport low-viz camouflage (see entry for April 20, 2016). The only identifying mark this time was a subdued, specially designed logo (below), partly in JASDF navy blue (popularly known as ‘samurai blue’), applied in sticker form to the aircraft.

Air Rescue Wing JASDFThe design is made up of an ARW eagle, representing strength and reassurance, centrally positioned
against a background of six magatama (comma-shaped beads, one for every 10 years of the ARW’s
existence). In ancient Japan, these decorations were regarded as possessing a strong force; here
they symbolize the spirit to confront challenges without giving in to anything.
(Image: JASDF)

One of the aforementioned low-viz U-125As had been flown across from Komatsu to be displayed on the apron next to a brand-new UH-60J (below) and a based CH-47J.

ARW UH-60J(Photo: Air Rescue Wing, JASDF)

This Year’s JCG Repeat Order for H225

H225 Japan Coast GuardThe image supplied with the Airbus Helicopters press release provides a fine air-to-air study of one of
the first pair of H225s, then known as Eurocopter EC225LPs, which were delivered in March 2008. The
Mimizuku (Horned Owl) is given to aircraft assigned to the 5th Region that operates from
Kansai International Airport. 
(Photo: Nobuo Oyama/Japan Coast Guard)

(April 25, 2018) A press release has today announced that Airbus Helicopters has been awarded a contract to supply the Japan Coast Guard with what will be its 10th H225, the first five of which were known as Eurocopter EC225LPs at the time of their service entry.

This order follows another single-aircraft order (Bulletin Board entry for March 14, 2016) due for delivery this year and last year’s order for three (June 21, 2017) expected by 2020.

The total number of aircraft to have entered the JCG’s Super Puma fleet, the largest in the country, when this aircraft arrives (by March 2021) will be 14; one of the original AS332L-1 aircraft, delivered in 1992, had to be decommissioned after being damaged beyond economic repair by the tsunami of March 11, 2011.

Phantom Phase-out Continues—and on Video

F-4EJ 47-8333(Photo: Takao Kadokami)

(April 11, 2018) The F-4EJ Phantom pictured above, photographed at Nyutabaru in late November 1982, was today flown for the last time.

Way back then, ‘Triple 3’ was assigned to the 304th Sqn at Tsuiki, and the honour of piloting the now 44-year-old veteran F-4EJKai on its farewell flight fell to a crew from the 302nd TFS at Hyakuri.

This the latest addition to J-HangarSpace from the collection kindly donated by Takao Kadokami was prompted by today’s event having been recorded for posterity in a video posted on YouTube (link). Another beautifully shot six-minute video on the same channel captures operations at “Phantom Paradise” Hyakuri (link).

Postcript On April 24, Hyakuri AB announced that it will be holding an Open Day on Dec. 2, 2018.

JMSDF Reorganizes UH-60J SAR Units

tateyama uh-60jThis UH-60J carries the number “73” on its tail, which denotes that it belonged to the now disbanded
73rd Fleet Air Squadron, which operated detachments at Tateyama, Ohminato and on Iwo To.

(April 2, 2018) A little after the event, J-HangarSpace has found out that this was the date on which, in a bid to increase efficiency, the JMSDF reorganized its units that operate UH-60J helicopters in the SAR role.

Essentially, the 72nd Sqn and 73rd Sqn, which formerly came under the 22nd Fleet Air Wing (Omura) and 21st Fleet Air Wing (Tateyama), respectively, were disbanded and reformed as the 224th Flight and 213rd Flight.

The detachment the 72nd Sqn operated at Kanoya has been re-designated as the 22nd Flight, and the 73rd Sqn’s detachment on Iwo To is now known as the 21st Flight. The 73rd Sqn’s detachment at Ohminato was disbanded.

Japan Coast Guard’s Newest Helicopters Arrive

Kagoshima JCG Bell 505 The Japan Coast Guard’s four new Bell 505 Jetranger X helicopters bask in the spring sunshine at
Kagoshima airport in mid-March 2018. 
(Photo: Bell Helicopter Textron)

(March 29, 2018) The year in which the Japan Coast Guard marks its 70th anniversary having already seen the arrival of new fixed-wing equipment in the form of Cessna Turbo Skyhawk JT-As (see Bulletin Board entry for Sept. 27, 2017), the service is now introducing into service four Bell 505 Jetranger X training helicopters.

Today, the first two aircraft arrived at Sendai airport, where they will be based, having staged through five airports on the 750-mile (1,200 km) ferry flight from Kagoshima, where they had been undergoing testing.

Initially, they will serve alongside their three remaining Bell 206B namesakes, which will gradually be phased out. The first two 505s bear the names Ōruri 1 and Ōruri 2, continuing the tradition of Sendai-based helicopters being named ‘blue-and-white flycatcher’. Another photo, taken at Tokyo International Airport en route Sendai, can be found here (link).

Totaling just under 1.3 billion yen (around US$11.9 million), the contract was awarded following a bidding process, commenced in June 2017, in which Bell went rotor head-to-rotor head against Airbus Helicopters and emerged victorious. Offering the benefit of glass cockpit training, each 505 can also be fitted with a loudspeaker system for use in the event of a natural disaster. (Sendai Airport was inundated by the March 2011 tsunami.) 

Postscript On April 12, the other two aircraft were ferried to Sendai, where a commissioning ceremony was held on April 25. (J-HangarSpace would like to thank Bell Helicopter Textron’s Asia-Pacific Communications Team for kindly providing the photo.)

Kakamigahara Museum Reopens after Major Renovation

Gifu-Kakamigahara Air and Space Museum (2)Taken on a media preview tour given prior to today’s official reopening, this photo shows the double row
of aircraft in the bright, new-look main exhibition hall devoted to postwar aircraft development.

(Photo: Tourist Attractions in Gifu Prefecture)

(March 24, 2018) Having been closed for extensive renovations since September 2016, the now rebranded Gifu-Kakamigahara Air and Space Museum (Sorahaku [Air Museum] for short in Japanese) is officially open for business again from today.

Gifu-Kakamigahara Air and Space Museum logo

Opened in 1996, after 20 years the Kakamigahara City-operated museum was thought to be showing obvious signs of obsolescence and in need of a facelift, and nearly 4.89 billion yen (roughly US$47 million) has been spent in improvements and in increasing the floor area by around 70% to 9,400 square metres (101,200 square feet). A total of 43 aircraft are currently on display at the facility that, as its new name suggests, is now jointly operated by the city of Kakamigahara in association with Gifu Prefecture. The museum collaborated with the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to expand and upgrade the space content.

Pride of place has been given to the only example of a Ki-61 Hien fighter extant in Japan. That alone should serve to draw a high percentage of the 500,000 visitors expected in a year.

Postscript J-HangarSpace increased the visitor count by one on April 5 and has added a page dedicated to a report on the new-look museum.

JGSDF Suffers Loss of Apache Helicopter Crew

JGSDF AH-64D 74502The aircraft involved in today’s fatal crash is seen here soon after landing at Utsunomiya in May 2013.

(February 5, 2018) Its sister services having both suffered fatalities as a result of helicopter accidents last year, a JGSDF AH-64D Apache Longbow assigned to the 3rd Anti-Tank Helicopter Squadron today crashed onto a house, which was set ablaze. At the time of writing the co-pilot has been confirmed to have been killed, and the pilot is still posted as missing. Fortunately, an 11-year-old girl just managed to escape from the house in time.

Occurring in good visibility conditions late on a cold afternoon, the tragic incident was witnessed by local residents in Kanzaki, Saga Prefecture, and within sight of the control tower of the aircraft’s Metabaru home base, about 4 km to the north. One of the main rotor blades is reported to have separated directly before impact.

As snow fell, JGSDF troops conducted an inch by inch search of an adjacent field and marked any items of wreckage. At a time when the operations of U.S. military rotorcraft in Japan are already under intense scrutiny, TV news footage of the search showed a piece of fuselage bearing the serial number (74502) and a buckled cockpit side window frame. The latter images will likely have brought back memories of the recent non-fatal accident in which the side escape window from a U.S. Marine Corps CH-53 inexplicably fell onto the playground of a school adjacent to Futenma Air Station in Okinawa.

In another coincidence, this incident will also give pause to Saga Prefecture Governor Yoshinori Yamaguchi. He will have to rubber stamp any central government plan to base soon to arrive JGSDF Osprey tiltrotors at Kyushu-Saga International Airport, located out on the coast to the southwest of Kanzaki.

The aircraft involved in today’s crash was the second of the two Boeing-built aircraft imported from the United States and officially handed over to the JGSDF in March 2006. Although intended as a replacement for the AH-1S Cobra, budget limitations were to severely curtail the type’s assembly and production in Japan by Fuji Heavy Industries (now Subaru Corporation).

As a precaution, the other 12 Apache helicopters have been grounded pending an investigation into the cause, which reportedly at this early stage will likely focus on maintenance procedures; the ill-fated crew had been conducting a local, post-maintenance test flight.

Postscript The body of the pilot was found the following morning. Also on Feb. 6, Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera revealed that the accident had happened right after the fitting of a new rotor head, which is carried out every 1,750 flying hours; the aircraft had just undergone its regular 50-hour checks. Reports now suggest that the entire main rotor became detached.

Postscript 2 At a media briefing held on January 31, 2019, almost a year to the day after the AH-64D accident, JGSDF Chief of Staff General Koji Yamazaki once again emphasized that investigations into the cause of the crash, the failure of the main rotor’s outboard bolt, were being urgently conducted from a variety of angles. Thus far, they had been able to rule out pilot or maintenance error. Until such time as the reason has been determined, the flight ban on the service’s AH-64D fleet will remain in place.

Postscript 3 The flight ban on the 12 AH-64Ds in service was finally lifted on November 18, 2019.

First JASDF F-35A Reports for Duty at Misawa

JASDF F-35A over MisawaThe JASDF has officially deployed its first F-35A, a type that is set to become a familiar sight  in
Japanese skies. The above photo shows the fifth aircraft, the first assembled in Japan.
(Photo: U.S. Air Force/Senior Airman Brittany A. Chase)

(January 26, 2018) Today marked the start of JASDF F-35A deliveries, following the arrival from the Final Assembly and Check Out facility at Komaki of actually the second Japanese-built aircraft at a cold, windy and partially snow-covered Misawa AB [link].

Having passed under an arch of water jets from two fire trucks as he taxied in, pilot and Provisional F-35A Squadron commander Lt. Col. Nakano was met by 3rd Wing and Misawa AB commander Major General Kenichi Samejima and greeted by great applause from the assembled throng of 300 base personnel. Among the speakers were Samejima, his U.S. Air Force counterpart, the mayor of the city of Misawa and, as would be expected, Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera.

As soon as the engines had stopped running, covers were placed over the intakes and, to further safeguard security, the media pack reportedly given detailed instructions on the permissible photo angles [link].

For the time being at least, a link to a short Japanese media video recording of the event can be found on the Asahi Shimbun [link] website.

The Provisional F-35A Squadron is scheduled to have received a total of 10 aircraft by the end of March 2019.

JASDF F-35A Misawa taxiwayToday was not the first time for a JASDF F-35A to debut at Misawa. Seen here on a Misawa taxiway on
November 2, 2017, the first Japanese-built aircraft transited through Misawa en route to the United
States to undergo its final function checks. Escorted across the Pacific by a pair of Wisconsin Air
Guard F-16 Fighting Falcons, the F-35A was at that time being flown by a U.S. Air
Force pilot who is a Defense Contract Management Agency government flight representative.
(Photo: U.S. Air Force/Senior Airman Brittany A. Chase)

Sharer Sought for Fighter Squadron Home—Apply Nyutabaru AB

F-15DJ Nyutabaru A 305th Sqn F-15DJ departs Nyutabaru in November 2017. The sole front-line unit resident at the base
since October 2016, two months after its arrival from Hyakuri, the 305th could ultimately have an
F-35B squadron as a neighbour.
(Photo: Andy Binks)

(January 21, 2018) The Sankei Shimbun learned yesterday that the Japan Ministry of Defense has launched a study into increasing the number of JASDF fighter squadrons.

Under scrutiny is a plan for the current 12 active squadrons, each with around 20 aircraft on strength, to be increased to 14 squadrons, including the addition of a second unit at Nyutabaru AB.

Increasing and augmenting the JASDF’s fighter capability is set to become one of the main aspects of the National Defense Program Guidelines, which are due to be compiled this year. When initially formulated in 2013, the plan had been to add a single squadron, but operational requirements, from the East China Sea to the Pacific Ocean, are dictating a rethink.

Originally, the single-unit increase was to be achieved by having two newly formed F-35A squadrons replace the single Misawa-based F-2 unit, which would move to Hyakuri and join an additional F-15J unit to replace the two Phantom squadrons. Under this plan, Nyutabaru would remain the only fighter base of the seven in operation to be home to a single unit. Should a second unit be foreseen, the JASDF would even look into the acquisition of short takeoff/vertical landing (STOVL) F-35Bs to operate from there.

In a related move, the Thomson Reuters news organization reported on December 27, 2017, that Japan is considering refitting the JMSDF’s flagship helicopter carrier Izumo to enable her to host F-35Bs. Aware of the constitutional controversy that any plans for a full-fledged JMSDF aircraft carrier would spark, Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera denied that there was any specific examination under way. The costly modifications would have to include the adding of a “ski jump” ramp at the end of the flight deck, which would have to be made resistant to jet efflux, and augmenting the ship’s air traffic control capability.

60th Anniversary of T-1 First Flight Passes (Almost) Unnoticed

Fuji T-1 first flightPiloted by Col. Susumu Takaoka, the prototype Fuji T1F2 gets airborne on its first flight from the
company’s Utsunomiya airfield on January 19, 1958. Having also conducted the first flight of the
Nakajima Kikka prior to the end of the war, Takaoka’s jet experience pre-dated the JASDF.
(Photo: Used with kind permission, from March 1958 edition of Aireview)

(January 19, 2018) Today marks the 60th anniversary of the first flight of the Fuji T-1A, or T1F2 as it was then known, the first indigenously produced jet aircraft to see operational service in Japan. Developed specifically to train JASDF pilots, the first of what were to be 66 T-1s in two versions had been rolled out on November 27 (another Japanese source says December 19), 1957, and towed to Utsunomiya Airfield, where as custom dictates a purification ceremony was presided over by a Shinto priest.

The proceedings on that January day commenced with the designated pilot, the commanding officer of the JASDF’s then Air Proving Group Col. Susumu Takaoka, being joined by a Lt. Col. Hidaka to conduct high-speed taxy trials. Hidaka then departed in the T-33A that was to act as chase plane.

Takaoka was cleared for engine start at 11:00 a.m. and airborne at 11:07. Although sources again differ, during its 27-minute maiden flight, the aircraft reached an altitude of 6,000 metres and an average speed of 355 knots (658 km/h). Elated, Fuji Heavy Industries President Yoshida travelled in person to the Defense Agency to deliver the news.

Fuji T-1 prototypeThe gleaming prototype T1F2 in profile; the “TA” on the tail signified “Test Aircraft.”
(Photo: Used with kind permission, from March 1958 edition of Aireview)

On March 25, 1958, after 30 company test flights, the aircraft was handed over to the then Japan Defense Agency’s Technical Research and Development Institute.

Originally built as T1F2 (T-1A) 82-5801 powered by a British-made Orpheus engine, the aircraft was modified to T1F1 (T-1B) standard with the Japanese-produced J3 engine. Its “second first” flight took place on May 17, 1960.

As early as December 1961, the aircraft was withdrawn from active use and, after decades on display primarily at Ashiya AB, acquired by the National Museum of Nature and Science in Tokyo early in 2001.

Fuji T-1 prototype (2000)Its flight test days at an end, aside from increasingly infrequent loans for promotional events in other parts
of Japan, the prototype languished on display at Ashiya AB for nearly 40 years from December 1961.
It is seen here in late September 2000, less than six months before its final removal in March 2001.

Today, the aircraft remains stored in a dismantled state at the Kakamigahara Aviation & Space Museum, to where it was brought in April 2002. The aircraft will not be placed on display from April following the facility’s major refurbishment, as the collection there includes a T-1B that was extensively used for testing from Gifu and thus has a close connection with Kakamigahara.

J-HangarSpace contacted SUBARU Corporation to see if any commemorative events were being planned on the day itself; apparently the anniversary is likely to be celebrated in some way at the Japan International Aerospace Exhibition 2018 in November.

Ashiya T-4 2018 HNY(Photo: JASDF Ashiya AB)

Hirata Takes Delivery of First H145 in Japan

Hirata H145 BK117D-2The first H145 for dedicated emergency medical service (EMS) operations registered in Japan is
is put through its paces prior to delivery.
(Photo: Airbus Helicopters Japan)

(December 19, 2017) A ceremony was held today at Airbus Helicopters Japan (AHJ)’s Kobe facility to mark the handover of an H145, which is designated the BK117D-2 by joint developer, Kawasaki Heavy Industries. Surprisingly, this is the first of the more than 1,400 H145/BK117D-2 helicopters in service, which have amassed 4.8 million flight hours in some 21 countries, to be delivered for emergency medical service (EMS) operations in Japan.

The aircraft’s operator, likewise Kobe-based Hirata Gakuen, had signed a contract for two H145s at the Japan International Aerospace Exhibition 2016 and will introduce them into service in Nagasaki Prefecture, replacing a single H135, in June and September 2018.

The last of Hirata’s current fleet of 14 H135s was delivered in October 2017. Launched in 2001, Hirata’s EMS operations have clocked up 100,000 missions and will be providing cover for 11 of Japan’s 47 prefectures from 2018.

Last Operational US-1A Takes Final Bow

Iwakuni US-1A retirement(Photo: JMSDF Iwakuni)

(December 13, 2017) Having bid farewell to its MH-53E helicopters in March, another JMSDF stalwart has graced the skies of Japan for the last time.

A final flight ceremony was held today at JMSDF Iwakuni to mark the retirement from service of the last US-1A search and rescue (SAR) amphibian.

The first US-1A conversion of a US-1 having been carried out in 1981, deliveries to the 71st Sqn commenced in March 1982. Five of the six original US-1s were converted to US-1A standard and followed by 14 new-build US-1As. As a final tally, 909 of the 71st Sqn’s 1,036 SAR missions were carried out by US-1/US-1As.

One US-1A was lost on February 21, 1995, when 9080 capsized on landing off the Oki island chain in Shimane Prefecture, tragically claiming the lives of 10 of its 12 crew members.

Delivered as recently as February 2005, ‘last man standing’ 9090 had undergone its last progressive aircraft rework (PAR) process at ShinMaywa’s Konan Plant and been returned to service on October 23, 2015.

The fixed-wing SAR role is now the sole preserve of the 71st Sqn’s five US-2s.

And the Snazzy Scheme Award Goes To . . .

Gifu F-4EJ 2017(Photo: JASDF Gifu AB)

(December 2017) Without doubt the most striking colour scheme on show at the end of 2017 was that applied to an F-4EJKai Phantom of the Gifu-based Air Development & Test Wing (AD&TW), which was flown in its new look for the first time just three days before the base’s open day on November 19.

At first glance, the two-tone green, brown and black design seems reminiscent of the effective German World War I “lozenge” camouflage or even an artwork by the British modern artist Bridget Riley, well known for works involving coloured-shape sequences. Although more of a splinter design, a similarly fetching scheme was adopted by the Swedish Air Force for the Saab 37 Viggen.

In this case, the concept behind the digital pixelated scheme is a modern take on the dark green camouflage applied to the Type 3 Hien fighter, which was both locally designed and produced at as well as flown from then Kawasaki Aircraft’s Kakamigahara factory. Sections of the leading edge of the main wing were painted yellow, as was the norm for IJAAF fighters at the end of the war for identification purposes. Yellow was also used for an edging around the aircraft’s serial and nose numbers, the AD&TW tail marking and the name of the maintenance crew chief above the grey armament status placard on the nose. The February 2018 issue of Koku Fan reported that the design, officially (and dubiously) named Passion Wind, was said to evoke the handing down of the aviation technologies accumulated during the war to the AD&TW, which is responsible for the JASDF’s research and development.

Applied across the aircraft’s undersides [link] was 各務原飛行場100周年 (Kakamigahara Airfield Centenary), the reason for the lavish paint job. Selected in 1915 as the location for the Imperial Japanese Army’s second airfield, following that at Tokorozawa in Saitama Prefecture, the work to change the use of an artillery firing range was completed in 1917.

Salmson 2A2(Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

The type with which the aviation industry was launched at Kakamigahara was the Type 2 Model 1 Reconnaissance Aircraft (above), which apparently was available in any colour as long as it was white aluminium. Enterprisingly, the then Kawasaki Dockyard Co., Ltd. (now Kawasaki Heavy Industries) had acquired the licence to build the French Salmson 2A2 under licence in 1918. Built at the company’s Hyogo Works, the first of 300 of these aircraft made its first flight from Kakamigahara Airfield, where Kawasaki had by then established an assembly plant, on November 9, 1922.

Today, the site is home to both Gifu AB and Kawasaki Heavy Industries’ Gifu Works. Currently nearing the end of a major refurbishment project, in which J-HangarSpace has been involved, the now renamed Gifu-Kakamigahara Aviation & Space Museum is at a separate location and scheduled to reopen its doors on March 24.

Postscript Visible in the background of this entry’s title photo is the second prototype C-2, which has now been modified to EC-2 electronic intelligence (ELINT)-gathering standard. The aircraft commenced its flight test programme from Gifu on February 8, 2018.  

JASDF’s 304th Squadron Airs Latest Specially Marked F-15J

JASDF F-15J Tom Milliken(Photo: Tom Milliken)

(December 2017) The latest in a long line of F-15Js that have sported special anniversary markings was present at the Naha AB air show, which was held over the second weekend in December.

The aircraft had been specially decorated to mark the 40th anniversary of the 304th Sqn’s formation as an F-4EJ Phantom unit on August 1, 1977. After having converted to the F-15J in 1990 and spent no less than 38 years at Tsuiki, the 304th completed its move to Naha in January 2016.

Jean Marc Braun F-15J(Photo: Jean Marc Braun)

This year’s air show followed the format adopted in 2016, in which ground displays and entertainment are interspersed with 30-minute flying displays over the two days. The specially marked F-15J was used for a flying display that unusually started at dusk (below).

304th F-15J night(Photo: JASDF Naha AB)

Grateful to Bangkok-based Jean Marc Braun and Tom Milliken for having kindly provided photos, J-HangarSpace received permission from Naha AB for permission to use images that appeared on the base’s Facebook page [link] in November.

304th projection(Photo: JASDF Naha AB)

The photo above shows the novel technique of projecting the outline of a somewhat larger version of the 304th Sqn’s tengu (long-nosed goblin) mask marking onto the tail for painting purposes. Other photos showing the process of applying another large tengu to the upper surfaces appear in the 304th Sqn entry on the Squadron Histories Page (link).

Aichi Museum Officially Opens Its Doors

Aichi Museum of FlightThe slogan on the museum website (link) reads From the Past to the Future.
(Photo: Aichi Museum of Flight)

(November 30, 2017) Following a preview held on November 20, today saw the official opening of the Aichi Museum of Flight, a new facility located within Nagoya airport.

Built by the Aichi prefectural government at a reported cost of around five billion yen (US$45 million), the museum features the ex-JASDF YS-11P that made its final flight to adjoining Komaki AB on May 29 (see bulletin below). Emphasizing the close prefectural links, Aichi Governor Hideaki Omura had been on board that day. A YouTube video (link) records the aircraft being brought in out of the rain on October 28, prior to two unveilings that were open to the general public in early November.

Aichi Museum of Flight Zero(Photo: Sebastian Sui)

Another major attraction will be the Mitsubishi A6M5 Zero Model 52 (seen during preparations above) that was previously exhibited at Mitsubishi Heavy Industries’ Nagoya Aerospace Systems Komaki South Plant (link), which closed in June.

Although strange to have a museum dedicated to an aircraft that is yet to enter service, the nearby MRJ Museum, which forms another part of this initiative to promote Nagoya’s aircraft manufacturing past and present, opened on the same day. The two museums are expecting a total of 750,000 visitors in the first year.

Postscript J-HangarSpace swung by the Aichi Museum of Flight to provide an on-the-spot report on April 4, 2018 (link).

JGSDF Veteran Found Taped Up in Thailand

JGSDF H-13 30108 (Photo: Jean Marc Braun)

(November 30, 2017) J-HangarSpace is indebted to aviation photographer Jean Marc Braun for kindly providing this photo of a Kawasaki-built H-13H (Bell 47G-2) that he came across in February 2017. The location is War Camping & Coffee War, a military surplus dealer along Highway 13 (157 km marker) in Jomtien, a coastal town close to Pattaya in Thailand. (But see postscript.)

JGSDF H-13 30108 c/n plate(Photo: Jean Marc Braun)

The manufacturer’s plate (above) reveals the aircraft’s construction number to be 118 and its place and date of birth as Kobe no less than 60 years ago this year, on March 30, 1957 (Shōwa 32). Its JGSDF career started upon its delivery as 30108 on May 17 that year.

Withdrawn from use on January 18, 1973, Japanese sources state that the aircraft was eventually displayed by the Matsumoto Brothers Trading Company, a car breaker’s yard operator in Tochigi Prefecture, in the late 1990s to around 2004. Taken at the Matsumoto Brothers’ site in the town of Mibu around 2002, a photo of the sorry-looking aircraft as it was then appears here (link).

J-HangarSpace will be endeavoring to fill in some of the large gaps in this aircraft’s history.

Postscript As shown on the JGSDF Where Are They Now? page, photo contributor Alec Wilson kindly reports that this aircraft was resident at the ‘Chic Chic Market’ in Nong Khai, northeastern Thailand, in November 2018.

Late Notification of Early Warning First Flight

JASDF E-2DThe first JASDF E-2D completed its first flight on October 9. (Photo: Northrop Grumman)

(November 13, 2017) Today Northrop Grumman announced that the maiden flight of the first of two E-2D Advanced Hawkeye aircraft destined for the JASDF had taken place on October 9 at the company’s Aircraft Integration Center of Excellence in St. Augustine, Florida.

The aircraft bears U.S. national markings, but its JASDF serial (81-3471) appears on the tail and, as seen in the photo, the “last three” on the nose.

Northrop Grumman was awarded a $151.3m contract for the first E-2D in November 2015, with contract completion due originally by March 2018, and contract for an additional aircraft in August 2016. Production of both aircraft was commenced in tandem in 2016, so presumably that will extend the contract completion date.

C-2s Departing on First Overseas Training Flights

403rd Sqn C-2 JASDFA then newly delivered 403rd Sqn C-2 overflies its Miho base on May 28, 2017.
(Photo: Hunini via Wikimedia Commons)

(October 21, 2017) The December issue of Koku Fan, which went on sale today, mentions the imminent departure of two C-2s and their support crews on the type’s first overseas training deployments.

The first involves an aircraft heading for Djibouti from November 8–17, during which time sales promotion participation at the Dubai Air Show (Nov. 12–16) is planned.

This is to be followed by an aircraft heading for New Zealand from November 25 to December 1.

Phantom Crew Has Lucky Escape

F-4EJ 408The aircraft involved in today’s taxiway incident at Hyakuri, seen during its time with the
301st Squadron at Nyutabaru in December 2012.
(Photo: Takao Kadokami)

(October 18, 2017) While the search for the four airmen missing off Shizuoka Prefecture continues (see yesterday’s story), the crew of a 302nd Squadron F-4EJKai Phantom had a lucky escape when heading for the Hyakuri runway, final checks completed, to depart on a training flight just before noon.

Pictures on the Sankei Shimbun news site show the hastily vacated aircraft ablaze (link) before being covered in foam and the fire completely extinguished about 20 minutes later. Flights from adjoining Ibaraki Airport were unaffected.

Alarmingly, a YouTube video (link) showing the aftermath of the incident has footage of three men standing around the port mainwheel, which seems to have become detached when the aircraft was taxying.

Better then than on takeoff and better today than during the SDF Review scheduled to take place at Hyakuri on October 29.

Postscript As it turned out, for the first time in the event’s history, the SDF Review had to be cancelled due to bad weather.

JASDF UH-60J Latest in Spate of Helicopter Crashes

UH-60J Hamamatsu

(October 17, 2017) This evening, the lead story on the main NHK TV evening news reported that a Hamamatsu-based Air Rescue Wing UH-60J had disappeared from radar screens around 6 p.m. and likely crashed into the sea during a night training exercise.

News agencies later reported that floating wreckage had been sighted around 30 kilometres south of the base and that an air- and seaborne search was under way for the four-man crew.

Last UH-1H Passes Quietly into Retirement

UH-1H JGSDF HyakuriAn Eastern Region Helicopter Squadron UH-1H at Hyakuri in July 1985, during the type’s heyday
(Photo: Takao Kadokami)

(October 2017) Back on August 10, a Thomson Reuters Japan news report stated that the Japanese government was making final adjustments to plans to provide the Philippine Army with around 40,000 UH-1H helicopter parts free of charge. The first agreement of its kind for Japan, more than an environment-friendly finding of a new home for usable parts, the move was thought to be seen as a way to head off influence-strengthening offers of equipment from China.

Stating that the parts would greatly assist the Philippines in maintaining its helicopter airlift capabilities for disaster relief operations, the report went on to say that the UH-1H, introduced into JGSDF service in 1973–74, had been completely withdrawn from use in 2012.

The last of a total of 133 UH-1Hs drip fed to the JGSDF was delivered in 1992, and early versions were gradually retired as UH-1J deliveries progressed. However, without providing a breakdown, an inventory list issued by the Ministry of Defense had given a combined total of 131 UH-1H/Js on strength as at March 31, 2017.

For some reason, one lone, late-model UH-1H (41727, seen here in June 2015 [link]) soldiered on with the 2nd Flight of the Northern Regional Army Helicopter Squadron at Obihiro until early this month. On August 31, the still active aircraft was present in a hangar (link) during a tour of inspection by the commander of the Northern Regional Army.

This month, media reports stated that an agreement covering the supply of parts would be signed at the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit to be held in the Philippines from November 10.

UH-1H Kita-Utsunomiya gateOne of around 30 preserved examples, a former Northeastern Region Helicopter Squadron UH-1H
helps to guard the gate at Kita-Utsunomiya Army Camp in May 2013.

 Japan Coast Guard Orders “First Fixed-Wing Training Aircraft”

Cessna JT-A(Photo: Textron Aviation Inc.)

(September 27, 2017) An affiliate company of Okayama Air Service Co., Ltd., Japcon Inc. today announced the signing of an order for five Cessna Turbo Skyhawk JT-A aircraft by the Japan Coast Guard (JCG), one of Okayama’s main customers. Japcon holds the unique position of authorized sales representative in Japan for Textron Aviation Inc. and is the sole local maintenance facility for the Cessna Aircraft Company.

The plan is for these aircraft, billed as the service’s first fixed-wing training aircraft, to be delivered to the JCG air station at Sapporo’s Chitose Airport in Hokkaido Prefecture in spring 2018.

The latest version of the Cessna 172, the “ultimate training aircraft,” the Turbo Skyhawk JT-A is powered by a 155 hp Continental CD-155 diesel engine for improved fuel economy and performance as well as compliance with more stringent environmental regulations. Equipped with a “glass cockpit,” the type received U.S. Federal Aviation Administration and European Aviation Safety Agency approval as recently as June 2017.

The Okayama press release omitted any reference to the Cessna U206 Stationair that the JCG operated for training and pollution monitoring from 1977 to 2015.

What the acquisition of these five new aircraft does show is that the JCG is about to bring in house training that up to now has been consigned to the JMSDF.

JMSDF SH-60J Fleet Grounded Following Night Training Crash


(August 27, 2017) Only a matter of days after the JMSDF was making headlines following a non-fatal accident involving a CH-101 (see below), a far more serious incident occurred late on August 26.

An SH-60J crew was practicing night takeoffs and landings in conjunction with the Setogiri, one of three Ohminato-based destroyers participating in the training, when contact was lost. At the time of writing, one of the four-man crew had been rescued, but the others, including the 36-year-old captain, were still missing. The intensive search operations earlier today involved five ships and eight aircraft from the JMSDF, supported by two JASDF aircraft and two Japan Coast Guard vessels.

The aircraft came down in the sea about 90 kilometers west-southwest of Cape Tappi, the northernmost point of the Tsugaru peninsula in Aomori Prefecture. According to the meteorological observatory in Hakodate, Hokkaido Prefecture, there were scattered rain clouds in the area at the time of the accident (around 10:50 p.m.) with a westerly fresh breeze; the maximum wave height was 2.5 metres.

According to initial media reports, the aircraft’s flotation devices had deployed, enabling the flight data recorder to be recovered during the night. On the evening of August 27, however, NHK TV news said that part of the aircraft’s radome had been found. While the search was continuing, Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera had announced the grounding of the SH-60J fleet, pending an investigation.

Postcript Following analysis of the retrieved flight data recorder, which revealed that different information was displayed on each pilot’s electronic horizontal situation indicator (EHSI), the grounding order was lifted and the SH-60J fleet returned to service on September 8.

Postscript 2 On October 24, 2017, the Chief of the Maritime Staff, Admiral Yutaka Murakawa, held a press briefing. He announced that the SH-60J had been located on the seabed at a depth of 2,600 metres by a submersible operated by a civilian salvage company. Having used the submersible to attach a net, the wreck was brought to the surface by crane on the evening of October 26. The two bodies that had been discovered on board were identified as being those of the two pilots; no trace of the navigator has been found. 

The prototype SH-60J made its maiden flight in August 1987, but it was to be August 1991 when the type officially entered service. Of the 103 aircraft built, few of which remain in service, four are known to have been involved in previous incidents at sea.

Date Location/Cause
July 6, 1993 Off Tateyama, Chiba Prefecture (engine problem)
July 4, 1995 Off Cape Erimo, Hokkaido Prefecture
(spatial disorientation resulted in loss of pilot)
Dec. 8, 2009 West of Nishisonogi peninsula, Nagasaki Prefecture,
on flight from Omura (piloting error, co-pilot and navigator killed)
Apr. 15, 2012 Mutsu Bay, Aomori Prefecture. Crashed into sea after main
rotor struck side of destroyer Matsuyuki‘s hangar during display 
flight. Six rescued, but aircraft’s captain killed

JMSDF Chopper Comes a Cropper

CH-101 JMSDFNormally operated in the inhospitable environment of Antarctica, a sister aircraft of this CH-101 was
involved in a mishap on a sunny afternoon at Iwakuni.
(Photo: JMSDF)

(August 17, 2017) This afternoon, a CH-101 normally assigned to the Antarctic observation ship Shirase was involved in a crash at Iwakuni, Yamaguchi Prefecture, during a training exercise.

While at the hover over a quay on the south side of the base with a suspended load, a sudden, excessive loss of stability caused its main rotor to strike the ground. Fortunately, only three of the eight crew members sustained minor injuries as the aircraft toppled onto its side, the others escaping unscathed.

Media reports showed images of the aftermath, some of which have made it on to YouTube (link).

Postscript On September 22, it was announced that the accident investigation had revealed inappropriate judgment in the handling of the aircraft on the part of the pilot in command—specifically, inadequate dealing with aircraft oscillation at its onset—and a lack of cooperation between the two pilots to have been contributory factors. The crew were practicing lowering two suspended drums onto the ground at the time, but in the hover at about 10 meters above the ground both the pilot and the co-pilot had made throttle inputs at the same time, resulting in the aircraft’s loss of stability. Both contributory factors were to be addressed in crew training to prevent a recurrence.

As a result of the findings, the JMSDF’s (M)CH-101 fleet, which had been grounded since the accident as a precaution, was returned to operational status from September 23.

JGSDF Woman Pilot Breaks Glass (Cockpit) Ceiling

Hitomi Hansako(Photo: JGSDF/Akeno)

(July 2017) The latest break in the glass ceiling/canopy of the male-dominated world that is JGSDF helicopter flying has been achieved by the first Japanese woman to have checked out on a combat helicopter.

Having joined the service in 1994, Major Hitomi Hansako (42) has been a helicopter pilot since October 2000 and amassed more than 2,300 flying hours, primarily on UH-1s. She completed the 10-week Akeno Aviation School course and officially became an instructor on the AH-1S Cobra at a ceremony held on July 14.

A YouTube video (link) records her first training flight in an AH-1S on April 27.

In principle, all occupations in the SDF have been open to women since 1993. Previously banned from being at the controls of a combat helicopter, due to such reasons as the “protection of motherhood,” the opportunity to apply for the course arose from the Abe government’s March 2016 introduction of a policy promoting increased opportunities for women.

Bringing a new meaning to the expression helicopter parenting, a TV news report showed Major Hansako, dressed in her JGSDF combat fatigues, preparing school lunch boxes for her two sons before riding off to the airfield on a three-seat bicycle.

Three Additional H225s Japan Coast Guard Bound

Motobu and MH688The crew of a Japan Coast Guard Super Puma brings its aircraft to the hover over the deck of the
patrol vessel
Motobu in October 2014. Mimizuku (Horned Owl) was one of the first two of what 
were then known as Eurocopter EC225LPs delivered in March 2008.
(Photo: Japan Coast Guard)

(June 21, 2017) A press release has today announced that Airbus Helicopters has been awarded a contract to supply three additional H225 helicopters to the Japan Coast Guard (JCG) by February 2020. Following last year’s order for a single aircraft, due to be delivered in 2018 (see Bulletin Board entry for March 14, 2016), this latest order brings the total number in the fleet to nine.

The order also marks the 25th anniversary of the JCG’s association with the Super Puma family. Including the two original AS332L1s received in 1982, the JCG will have operated a total of 11 examples* of the Super Puma family once the three additional aircraft have been delivered; the first two of what are now H225s entered service in 2008.

In all, 25 examples of this versatile 11-ton, twin-turbine aircraft are in service with Japanese civil and parapublic operators as well as the Japan Ministry of Defense.

(*) Taken from the Airbus Helicopters press release, but the aircraft listed on the JCG Aircraft Data File on this website now total 13.

Postscript The JCG H225 order was announced on the last day of the Paris Air Show. The following day, Airbus Helicopters issued a press release stating that the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department had signed a contract for one H215 (previously AS332L) and would thus become the first operator of the type in Japan. The aircraft is due to be added to what is currently a 14-aircraft fleet early in 2020, ahead of the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics.

First Japanese-Built F-35A Takes a Bow

F-35A JASDF (1)The first Japanese-assembled F-35A basks in the sunlight and limelight at its unveiling at the Mitsubishi
Heavy Industries (MHI) Komaki South plant in Nagoya.
(Photo: Kenichi Sunohara/Aireview)

(June 5, 2017) A major F-35 programme milestone was reached today with the rollout of the first Mitsubishi-assembled aircraft at the Final Assembly and Check Out (FACO) facility for the type inside the company’s Komaki South facility

Including Japanese and U.S. government leaders and captains of the defence industry, around 200 people attended the ceremony at the FACO, which is operated by MHI with technical assistance from Lockheed Martin and oversight from the U.S. Government.

Five and a half years have elapsed since the Japan Ministry of Defense competitively selected the F-35A as the JASDF’s next-generation air defence fighter in December 2011. The first four JASDF F-35As having been delivered from Lockheed Martin’s production facility in Fort Worth, Texas, all of the remaining 38 of the Foreign Military Sales programme covering 42 aircraft will be delivered to the JASDF from the Komaki South FACO.

Postscript: A video of the aircraft departing on its first flight, which took place on June 13, can be found here (link); the second aircraft followed suit on September 25.

Ikaros F-35 mookNot prepared to wait for the rollout of the first Mitsubishi-assembled aircraft, Japanese publisher
Ikaros has already just released an overview of the Japanese side of the F-35A story so far

After 52 Years, YS-11P Flies for Last Time

YS-11P Miho May 29, 2017(Photo: JASDF Miho AB)

(May 29, 2017) A ceremony was conducted at Miho AB today to mark the final flight made by the resident YS-11P, the last example of the transport version of the type built for the JASDF.

First flown on March 12, 1965, the aircraft was delivered on the 31st of that month as one of four YS-11Ps, two of which were later converted to YS-11FC standard for service with the Flight Check Group.

Having been the sole survivor with the 403rd Sqn since a sister aircraft’s withdrawal from use in June 2015, ‘152’ had given her last flight display just yesterday, at the Miho air show. Upon returning, the aircraft was taxied through a ceremonial water arch provided by two air base fire engines (link). Total airframe flight time was given as 23,872 hours, which equates to an average utilization of around 460 flying hours a year.

The destination today was Komaki AB, where she was built in the Mitsubishi factory and is now destined to be placed on display at the Aichi Aviation Museum that is scheduled to open there in November.

Eight YS-11s, of the ‘EA, ‘EB and ‘FC variants, remain in service with the JASDF. 

YS-11P last flight(Photo: JASDF Miho AB)

A YouTube video of the day’s events, from departure to arrival, can be viewed here (link).

JGSDF LR-2 Accident Claims Four Lives

LR-2 OkadamaThe LR-2 then assigned to the Northern Region Air Squadron parked on the rain-swept apron at its 
Okadama base in October 2007. The aircraft lost in the tragic May 15 crash, the last of the seven
operational aircraft received, had entered service with the JGSDF as recently as 2011.
(Photo: ‘100 yen’ via Wikimedia Commons)

(May 16, 2017) After a full-scale search operation involving around 1,700 personnel and 14 aircraft from all three services, the wreckage of the Raytheon LR-2 that had disappeared from radar screens at 11:45 a.m. yesterday was located by the crew of the JASDF’s Akita-based UH-60J shortly after 11:00 a.m.

When approaching Hakodate airport from the west in poor weather conditions that had not permitted the use of a helicopter, the Okadama-based aircraft had struck high ground at an elevation of around 600 metres close to Mt. Hakamagoshi in the city of Hokuto. Tasked with picking up a hospitalized patient at the request of the Hokkaido prefectural government, the aircraft’s crew was made up of two pilots and two mechanics.

The incident will invoke memories of the Mitsubishi LR-1 that crashed into the sea off Miyakojima, Okinawa, when likewise engaged on a medical evacuation flight, in February 1990.

Coming so soon after the loss of the JASDF U-125 flight check aircraft that crashed at Kanoya in April 2016, an investigation into the factors that caused this latest case of controlled flight into terrain will soon be launched.

Postcript On September 13, the findings of that investigation were released, and the mistaken disengaging of the autopilot reported to have been the cause; the audible warning was picked up on the cockpit voice recorder about 30 seconds before the crash, during radio communications with air traffic control. These would have necessitated pressing the comms button on the rear of the yoke, but there is the possibility that the autopilot disengage switch on the front was touched in error. In any event, a turn and steep descent from about 1,110 metres was then commenced, and the aircraft was by then flying through cloud, tragically too late for the crew to notice anything untoward or to react in time to a ground proximity warning; the aircraft actually struck a slope at a height of around only 330 metres.

The other six aircraft of the type operated by the JGSDF, which had been grounded since the accident, were returned to operational status on September 15.

More Scramble Crossings in the Skies

JASDF F-15J (Lara)(Photo: Staff Sgt. Miguel Lara/U. S. Air Force)

(April 13, 2017) The Japan Defense Ministry today issued a joint staff press release that not only reported a sharp spike in the quick reaction alert (QRA) responses to potential incursions into Japanese airspace but also offered a look back at the history of this perennial aspect of JASDF operations.

The first of the ‘urgent takeoffs’, as they are literally called in Japanese, was conducted by the 3rd Sqn—then flying F-86Fs from Chitose AB—on May 18, 1958, a sedate three months after the resident 2nd Air Wing had assumed responsibility for the role. A total of 25 missions were flown in the period up to March 31, 1959, the end of fiscal 1958.

Fast forwarding over the intervening 59 years, JASDF fighters were scrambled no less than 1,168 times in the fiscal year ended March 31, 2017, in other words around three times a day on average. This represented a 33.7% increase in tempo over the 873 missions of the previous fiscal year.

scrambleDoJ2009Each JASDF fighter base maintains pairs of armed aircraft on alert, the aim being to
emerge from the hangar within three minutes of engine start.
(Photo: Japan Ministry of Defense/JASDF)

Unsurprisingly, given the county’s increased presence in the South China Sea, it is responses to flights by Chinese aircraft that account for 73% of the total (851 missions). At the time of the previous high, the 944 missions flown in fiscal 1984 (Showa 59), it was the then Soviet Air Force that accounted for the bulk of activity.

The 2nd Air Wing recorded its 5,000th scramble call in September 2002, halfway through a fiscal year in which there were to be no reports of any Chinese aircraft for the first time in five years.

Over the years, actual incursions into Japanese airspace have been recorded on 38 occasions, the first having been on August 19, 1967, when an unidentified Russian aircraft encroached over the island of Rebun, off the northwestern tip of Hokkaido. By far the most publicized case was the fourth event, when defecting Russian pilot Viktor Belenko managed to breach the air defences and bring his MiG-25 into land at Hakodate airport on September 6, 1976. The latest instance was of another unidentified aircraft, presumed to have been Russian, detected off the Nemuro peninsula, Hokkaido, on September 15, 2015.

Despite the number of encounters, the only time the JASDF has had to resort to warning shots was on December 9, 1987. On that day, the crew of a 302nd Sqn F-4EJ Phantom that had been launched from Naha AB in Okinawa fired two volleys to ward off one of a formation of four Soviet Tupolev Tu-16 Badger aircraft that were en route from Vladivostok to Cam Ranh Bay, Vietnam.

Number of Scrambles by Fiscal Year (1958–2016)
JASDF scrambles to 2106Left-hand scale: Number of scrambles; Bottom scale: Fiscal year using the Japanese era numbering
format, Showa 33–63 (1958–1988), Heisei 1–28 (1989–2017). 
Fiscal years run from April 1 of
the year shown to March 31 of the following year.

(Source: Japan Ministry of Defense press release dated April 13, 2017)

The press release also provided a breakdown of operations by regional Air Defense Force over the last five fiscal years (shown below), which emphasizes by how much the newly formed 9th Air Wing that covers the southwestern region from Naha is now bearing the brunt of the responsibility.

Fiscal Year Northern Central Western Southwestern Total
2012 139 65 45 318 567
2013 222 86 100 402 810
2014 286 102 87 468 943
2015 205 50 87 531 873
2016 265 34 66 803 1,168

KJ-100 Nov. 27, 2015In fiscal 2016, the most common Chinese Air Force visitor to the skies close to Japanese airspace was
the Shaanxi Y-8. The KJ-200
Balance Beam airborne early warning version shown here was one of
no less than 11 Chinese aircraft that were tracked as they routed over the
South China Sea on November 27, 2015.
(Photo: JASDF)

Another chart included in the press release shows the pronounced shift in the provenance of the aircraft that triggered the missions over that same five-year period.

Fiscal Year Russia China Taiwan N. Korea Other Total
2012 248 306 1 0 12 567
2013 359 415 1 9 26 810
2014 473 464 1 0 5 943
2015 288 571 2 0 12 873
2016 301 851 8 0 8 1,168

Komatsu F-15J(Photo: Andy Binks)

Fuji Heavy Industries Name Passes into History

(April 1, 2017) Effective today, Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd. (FHI) changed its company name to Subaru Corporation, bringing all its diversified operations under the umbrella of the car brand by which it is most recognized.

So, we await (albeit unlikely) further orders for the Subaru T-5 and T-7 trainers and the unveiling, in around 2020, of what will probably be referred to as the Subaru-Bell UH-2, the version of the Bell 412EPI currently under development for the JGSDF.

The company can trace its lineage back to the simply named Hikōki Kenkyūjo (Aircraft Research Institute) that was founded by one Chikuhei Nakajima (1884–1949) on December 20, 1917, and thus the change has been timed to coincide with its centenary year.

Chikuhei NakajimaChikuhei Nakajima in 1932
(via Wikimedia Commons)

Earlier in 1917, Nakajima had resigned from the Imperial Japanese Navy, where he had assisted in aircraft design, to strike out on his own. His humble beginnings were in a shed that had been used for silkworm breeding in the town of Ota, Gunma Prefecture, where a modern-day Subaru SUV plant and its myriad supply chain companies are now clustered.

Changing the institute’s name to the Nakajima Aeroplane Company on April 1, 1918, to avoid any confusion with the Aviation Institute affiliated to Tokyo Imperial University (today The University of Tokyo), Nakajima for a time joined forces with a wool textile magnate by the name of Seibei Kawanishi (1865–1947), before that relationship turned to worms, and the two men acrimoniously went their separate ways. (More details can be found in an article on the Kawanishi Aircraft Company in Arawasi International Issue 10, Autumn 2008.)

Broken up under legislation passed during the Allied Occupation, an offshoot of Nakajima was reborn in the guise of Fuji Heavy Industries in 1950 and joined forces with other companies in the field of transportation equipment, for which there was burgeoning demand, in 1953.

Only five years later, in 1958, the company was celebrating the first flight of the T1F2 (later T-1A), the first Japanese-built jet trainer, and the entry into production of the diminutive Subaru 360 city car.

FHIadDec61Fuji Heavy Industries placed this ad, showing a Fuji T-1A and three Subaru 360s on the wide expanse
of Utsunomiya airfield, in the December 1961 issue of
Aireview. The wording at the top reads From
Jet Aircraft to Minicars, the slogan beneath the photo says Creating a New Era. The company built
70 T-1s in two versions between 1958 and 1963, and 392,000 Subaru 360s between 1958 and 1970.

T-1A Ashiya March 1973As good a reason as any to include this fine study, taken at Ashiya in March 1973, of a Fuji T-1A from
the 13th Flying Training Wing. As the first Japan-produced jet trainer, the T-1 holds a special
place in the annals of the country’s aviation history.
(Photo: Akira Watanabe)

The company’s automotive and aerospace businesses have advanced hand in hand ever since, even if today the latter accounts for less than 5% of net sales.

Over the years, companies active in Japan’s defense sector have at times been mired in scandal, a factor that seems to go with the territory not just in Japan. An investigation into bribes paid by FHI in return for the awarding of US-2 subcontracts tragically resulted in a former parliamentary vice-minister at the then Defense Agency taking his own life in 2001; that man was Yōjirō Nakajima, Chikuhei Nakajima’s grandson.

In 2010, FHI had to defend itself and became embroiled in protracted legal action against the hand that feeds it, namely the Ministry of Defense. Following the decision to cease AH-64D acquisition at just 13 aircraft, the company sought the reimbursement of 35 billion yen in investment expenses incurred in gearing up for licence production. Having gone to appeal, it was December 2015 before the Supreme Court ordered the MoD to pay.

The company will be hoping that the name change will herald a fresh start in more ways than one.

FA-200 Aero SubaruThose familiar with Japanese general aviation will recognize that two aircraft in this bucolic scene—at
Honda Airport, Saitama Prefecture, in May 2005—are of the first type to bear what is now the company
name, the Fuji FA-200 Aero Subaru.
Subaru is Japanese for Pleiades, the seven-star cluster that
features on the car badge and now on the corporate logo. The Aero Subaru first flew in
August 1965 and remained in production until 1986.

C-2 Development Programme Finally Ends

C-2 MoD(Photo: Japan Ministry of Defense)

(March 27, 2017) The Ministry of Defense today announced the completion of C-2 development, paving the way for the type’s unit deployment.*

Having commenced development for a successor to the C-1 in 2001, the first prototype was rolled out in July 2007, but it was to be January 2010 before that aircraft made its maiden flight. Handed over to the Ministry’s Technical Research & Development Institute (now the Acquisition, Technology & Logistics Agency) in March 2010, further technical delays dictated a somewhat protracted, 16-year development phase.

In comparison, development of the simpler and smaller C-1, which was designed to replace the JASDF’s C-46 fleet, was commenced in 1966. Approval for squadron deliveries was given seven years later, in June 1973.

(*) The deployment of C-2s to Miho on a permanent basis commenced on March 28 and was marked by a ceremony attended by 540 people two days later.  

Update to Nov. 28 Bulletin

Flown by JMSDF crews, the first two TC-90s to be leased to the Philippine Navy departed Tokushima on March 23, 2017. The aircraft were ferried via Naha AB and Ishigaki Airport en route to the Heracleo Alano (Cavite) naval base near Manila, where they were officially handed over at a ceremony on March 27. The training of six Philippine Navy maintenance personnel was completed in late March, and engineers from a Japanese maintenance company were due to be seconded to the Philippines in support of operations over the Benham Rise east of the island of Luzon and the South China Sea from April.

Izumo Goodwill Tour Planned

Izumo DDH-183(Photo: JMSDF)

(March 16, 2017) Having arranged for two P-1s to pay a low-key visit to the Royal International Air Tattoo in the UK when en route to Djibouti for operational trials in 2015, the JMSDF is intending to make a far bigger splash. The service is reportedly making plans to have its largest vessel, the helicopter carrier Izumo, make goodwill visits at four ports of call as she makes her way across to a joint exercise in the Indian Ocean this summer.

Provisionally, the unprecedented three-month voyage is to commence in May, include stops in Singapore, Indonesia, the Philippines and Sri Lanka, and end with participation in the Malabar naval exercise with U.S. and Indian elements in July. It would be August before the Izumo returns to its home port of Yokosuka, Kanagawa Prefecture. What other operations might be undertaken remains to be seen. Seen in some circles as a charm offensive, in others as offensive charm, the mere planning of such a flag-waving operation was guaranteed to produce an expected range of responses from certain quarters.

To focus here on the main protagonist, the Izumo (DDH-134) is the first of an eponymous class of helicopter carrier, which the Japan Ministry of Defense prefers to officially refer to (hopefully inaccurately) as a ‘helicopter destroyer’. Having joined the fleet in March 2015, she will lose her position as the newest ship when her sister, the Kaga (DDH-184), is commissioned at a ceremony planned for March 22.

With a fully laden displacement of 27,000 long tons, the 248 metre-long Izumo is slightly shorter but almost a third less bulky than the U.S. Navy’s current Wasp class of multipurpose amphibious assault ships and thus obviously has the potential to carry many more than its initial standard complement of seven patrol (SH-60K) and two search-and-rescue helicopters. As can be seen in the lead photo of this report, the helicopters can be ranged on five deck landing spots.

In August 2015, the Izumo was deemed ready to participate alongside Japan Coast Guard elements in an exercise that simulated a major disaster in the Tokyo area. Having had a visit from U.S. Marine Corps MV-22 Osprey tilt rotors in July 2016, it is only a matter of time before she receives and stows JGSDF aircraft of the same type. This summer’s voyage will increase the opportunities for come cross-decking operations with other services.

What’s in a Name?

It would perhaps go some way to projecting Japan’s peaceful image abroad if the JMSDF were to break with tradition and refrain from giving its carrier-type vessels the same names as ships from the Imperial Japanese Navy era, even if the tradition back then was to christen ships, including the famous battleships Yamato and Musashi, after ancient Japanese provinces.

Named after the area that today forms part of Shimane Prefecture, the original Izumo was built as an armoured cruiser. Completed in the UK in 1900, she saw far-flung combat service, including in the Mediterranean Sea during World War I, when Japan was on the Allies’ side. Closer to home, the Izumo served in the Russo-Japanese War (1904–5) and in operations off China from the early 1930s. Converted to a training ship in 1943, she was sunk following an air attack on Kure in July 1945 and scrapped in 1947.

KagaWith tugboats in attendance, the second Izumo-class helicopter carrier Kaga is seen off Yokohama,
Kanagawa Prefecture, on the day of its launch, August 27, 2015.
(Photo: Taro Yamada via Wikimedia Commons)

Named after a former province in what is today Ishikawa Prefecture, the first Kaga was launched as a battleship in 1921 but then officially reclassified as an aircraft carrier in 1923 and completed as such in 1928. Having achieved battle honours in the Sino-Japanese War, the Kaga gained lasting notoriety as one of the aircraft carriers assigned to the fleet that launched the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941. She was destined to be one of four IJN aircraft carriers lost at the Battle of Midway in June 1942.

Following Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s historic visit to Pearl Harbor in December 2016, it could be that in years to come another ship called the Kaga will be heading on a Hawaii operation that would be far from clandestine.

Whatever the name, it will also likely only be a matter of time before one of these new JMSDF vessels provides a welcome sight in support of natural disaster relief operations somewhere in the Pacific area.

Tragedy Strikes Nagano Air Rescue Team

(March 5–6, 2017) Just days after a former Iwate Prefecture rescue helicopter fetched millions at auction, and Saitama Prefecture announced its plan to introduce a charge for mountain rescue operations from January 2018, an accident in Nagano Prefecture has brought home the human cost sometimes paid by those who provide the service.

Nagano Bell 412 Alps (1)More than just a rescue helicopter, the ill-fated Alps served as an ambassador alongside the vaunted
members of the Nagano Air Rescue Team in community relations activities.
(NART website photo gallery)

At around 1:50 p.m. on March 5, the Bell 412EP flown by the Nagano Air Rescue Team (NART) crashed on wooded, snow-covered slopes close to Mount Hachibuse in the central part of the prefecture. Carrying two flight crew members and seven firefighters, the aircraft affectionately known as Alps had taken off from its Matsumoto airport base in good weather around 15 minutes before and been heading for the nearby location of a mountain rescue training exercise when contact was lost. At 3:10 p.m., a Nagano Prefectural Police helicopter crew located the crash site, news footage of which showed the cabin section upside down and wreckage scattered over a confined area. The accident claimed the lives of all nine occupants. The pilot, Masaji Iwata (56), had amassed 5,100 flying hours and had been flying with the unit since its inception in 1997. According to media reports, Alps had successfully undergone a routine maintenance check carried out at 300-flying hour intervals the previous month. Air accident investigators for the Japan Transport Safety Board (JTSB) arrived on the scene on March 6.

Only in January, NART had opened a small exhibition area at its Aviation Center. The assembled collection of Alps memorabilia offers a look back at the 20 years the aircraft had been in service.

Nagano Prefecture has consistently seen the highest number of incidents involving climbers stranded on mountains, so much so that then Governor Yasuo Tanaka had himself considered the introduction of a helicopter rescue fee in 2004. In 2016, Alps had been flown on a total of 111 missions (differences with 2015 given in parentheses):

Rescue EMS Fire Prevention Disaster Response Total
87 (+14) 5 (–) 12 (+2) 7 (–5) 111 (+11)

(Source: Nagano Air Rescue Team website)

Postscript A report on Nagano’s local NHK TV Shinshu news reported on November 7, 2018, that the prefecture had decided to purchase a U.S.-built Bell 412EPI through the SUBARU Corporation (formerly Fuji Heavy Industries) to replace the helicopter lost in the March 2017 accident.

Since that time, NART has been utilizing helicopters provided by Nagano Police or other prefectures as emergency cover and leased helicopters from private companies for training purposes. This repeats the procedure more commonly used when the sole aircraft in service is undergoing maintenance.

Involving two companies, a contract bidding selection process had been initiated in September 2018. The winning bid was reportedly about 2.5 billion yen (22 million U.S. dollars), and the prefecture will now be initiating contract procedures. Against that figure are the savings that can be made, for example in terms of training, by purchasing a later model of the previously operated type.

Nagano will be joining Aichi and Aomori prefectures in operating the Bell 421EPI.

Memories of Arakawa 1

Arakawa 1 (Mamo)Arakawa 1, Honda Airport, Saitama Prefecture, June 2010
(Photo: Mamo via Wikimedia Commons)

The Saitama Disaster Prevention Air Squadron (DPAS) itself suffered a major loss on July 25, 2010. That day, a climbing accident triggered a chain of events that resulted in the loss of seven lives, including those of a TV news reporter and cameraman sent to cover the story without proper equipment for the conditions they would likely encounter.

On that fateful day, one of the two Saitama DPAS AS365N3s took off from a temporary helipad in Otaki, located in the mountains of the prefecture’s Chichibu region, to rescue a climber who had needed resuscitation after slipping into a waterfall plunge pool. Arakawa 1 crashed from a height of around 30 metres directly after winching two rescuers down into a ravine to initiate the ground rescue operation. Noticing the cable sag and the helicopter ‘at an unusual attitude’, one of the rescuers managed to release the combined karabiner from the winch hook just in time. The two rescuers were lucky to survive, but all five men on board the helicopter perished.

In February 2012, the JTSB released its final accident report, in which two probable causes were cited: failure to make use of the full length of the winch cable and resulting contact of the aircraft’s Fenestron tail rotor with trees during adjustments made to the winching position.

On July 27, 2013, an unveiling and dedication ceremony was held at a memorial erected at the Deai no Oka (Encounter Hill) rest area near the Karisaka Tunnel on the Saikai Highway (Highway 140) in the Chichibu region.

Arakawa 1 memorialThe memorial to those who lost their lives on board Arakawa 1 features an adjacent helipad used to
bring Saitama DPAS members and officials to pay their respects on the anniversary of the
accident every year. 
(Photo: Phiror via Wikimedia Commons)

Following this latest tragedy, the Nagano authorities will perhaps consider placing a monument at Matsumoto airport, where the NART members that follow and the general public will be able to pay their respects every March 5.

NART logo(Nagano Air Rescue Team website)

JMSDF Pulls Its Major Muscle MH-53Es

(March 3, 2017) The Sikorsky MH-53E was today officially retired from JMSDF service following a ceremony at which the final two of the type were struck off charge.

JMSDF retires MH-53EThe final two garland-bedecked MH-53Es were present in the hangar at Iwakuni for the ceremony that
brought down the curtain on the type’s service career in Japan.
(Photo: JMSDF/MSO)

It was way back in November 1989 that the first of 11 aircraft was delivered to fulfill the heavy lift and mine-sweeping roles with the 111th Fleet Air Squadron; the last arrived the following year.

wfu MH-53E(Above) The writing was already very much on the wall for the MH-53E fleet in May 2016, when this
was one of two aircraft that were seen in a derelict state at Iwakuni.
(Below) In contrast, two others had been carefully stored in pristine condition in a confined hangar
space, even down to the placing of red sleeves over the upturned rear-view mirrors
(Photos: Hunini via Wikimedia Commons)
MH-53E 160505

Aircraft of this type airlifted 16 tons of relief supplies following the Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake of January 1995 and more than 116 tons to the Tohoku region in the aftermath of the Great East Japan Earthquake of March 2011. In between times, the uses to which the type was put included the transporting of former U.S. president George H. W. Bush between Iwo To and Chichijima when on a private visit in June 2002.

Tragically, there were eight fatalities in the crash of the sole aircraft lost. The accident occurred during a training flight off Jogashima, an island in Sagama Bay that is part of Kanagawa Prefecture, on June 6, 1995, though some sources erroneously give the same date in 1996.

JMSDF MH-53E IwakuniSeen here at Iwakuni in September 2012, this typically sooty MH-53E was that used for the
last flight of the type’in JMSDF service on February 20, 2017.

The “long goodbye” process of withdrawing the aircraft had been under way since March 2009, when the second aircraft delivered was retired. Subsequent aircraft have either been deemed surplus to requirements as deliveries of the replacement MCH-101 progressed or reached their airframe service life of 6,000 flying hours.

Presumably one example is destined to be transported by road to the JMSDF Museum at Kanoya AB in due course.

taxying MH-53ESayonara

Iwate Air Rescue Helicopter Goes under Hammer

Iwate JA6776 Shingo Okajima(From April 2016 YouTube video by Shingo Okajima [link])

(February 28, 2017) Today’s Mainichi Shimbun featured an offbeat news story of a rescue helicopter not in action but at auction.

Retired from service in September last year, Iwate Air Rescue’s trusty Bell 412EP—named Himekami after a mountain in the prefecture—had clocked up 6,624 flying hours in the 20 years since entering service in 1996. In that time, the aircraft had been involved in around 100 missions a year, the peak of 178 being recorded in 2011, the year in which Iwate was one of the Tohoku region prefectures worst hit by the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami.

In a bid, literally, to recoup at least some of the costs incurred over those years—not to mention swelling the coffers to assist in operating the brand-new replacement Himekami, an AW139—the prefectural authorities had put the veteran helicopter up for sale in the reported expectation of bids hovering around the 120 million yen (or US$1.0 million) mark.

The lowest of the seven bids received was for 55 million yen, the equivalent of around a mere US$480,000. Coming in at more than 330 million yen (US$2.9 million, before tax), the winning bid was nearly three times more than the grateful prefectural officials had expected. Back in 1996, the prefecture had paid 637.5 million yen for its first rescue helicopter.

Governed by the laws of supply and demand, the high tender also bears testament to the aircraft’s equipment fit and the high standard of maintenance. The new owners, a diversified general aviation company based in Wakayama Prefecture called Eurotec Japan, Inc., which had operated a Bell JetRanger from 2011 to 2013, reportedly had no specific plans as yet for their new acquisition.

Other YouTube videos, like the link above also shot by Shingo Okajima, show the original Himekami refilling its water tank during a demonstration flight over a river in February 2011 [link] and the new AW139 during crew training in May 2016 [link].

Back to Work

Atsugi Kawasaki P-1A single Kawasaki P-1 from the JMSDF flight test unit, the 51st Fleet Air Squadron, follows a pair of
3rd FAS patrol aircraft as they turn toward a famous local landmark. The trio was airborne from its
base at Atsugi, Kanagawa Prefecture, for the first training flight of 2017.
(Photo: JMSDF/Atsugi AB)

(January 2017) As tradition dictates, the first week of the New Year at SDF air bases brings with it ceremonies that are held directly before the resumption of flight training. Reported in articles in the March issues of the major Japanese aviation magazines, which appear in the third week of January, these events are also covered to varying degrees by the bases themselves.

This year, the first JMSDF base to upload images of the first training flight to its website was Atsugi, an example of which is shown above.

51st Sqn Kawasaki P-1The 51st Sqn UP-1 seen during a flight to test the lowering of the nose undercarriage in a
simulated emergency situation. 
(Photo: JMSDF/Atsugi AB)

Visitors to J-HangarSpace might be interested to discover that the two stunning images (above and below) are from downloadable 2017 calendars. The photo above is one of an excellent set for a full-year calendar, produced by the 4th Fleet Air Wing and depicting operations undertaken by the varied units home-based at Atsugi [link]; the photo below is from a selection of single-page calendars produced by JMSDF Hachinohe [link].

Hachinohe P-3C flaresThe typically dramatic result of a P-3C Orion, from the Hachinohe-based 2nd Fleet Air Squadron,
releasing a barrage of decoy flares.
(Photo: JMSDF/Hachinohe AB)

J-HangarSpace is currently compiling brief histories of JMSDF squadrons past and present in the hope of being able to upload at least the first section later this month. The histories will also feature more of the photos kindly contributed by veteran photographer Takao Kadokami, whose collection dates back to the mid-1950s. 

Cessna Citation 680A Selected

(December 1, 2016) In the absence of any viable Japanese-designed contenders, the Japan Ministry of Defense announced today its selection of the Cessna Citation 680A as the new mount for the JASDF Flight Check Group responsible for calibrating and testing air base navigational aids. Funding for the three aircraft, which have a unit cost quoted at roughly US$28 million, is to be allocated in the fiscal 2017 budget.

Citation 680AA Citation 680A registered to manufacturer Cessna Aircraft Company visits Gloucestershire Airport in
the UK in September 2016. In due course, a suitably modified version of this type of aircraft will sport
the distinctive red-and-white check tail markings of the JASDF’s Iruma-based Flight Check Group,
entering service presumably as the U-680A.
(Photo: James via Wikimedia Commons)

Replacing the venerable YS-11FC and the U-125 tragically lost in an accident in April, the aircraft are planned for delivery by the end of March 2021 via Kanematsu Corporation, which acquired Japanese sales agency rights from Cessna parent Textron Aviation in 2015. Answering an August request for proposals, the Citation beat off rival bids submitted in October by Sojitz Corporation (Bombardier Challenger 650) and Mitsui Bussan Aerospace (Dassault Falcon 2000S).

Aside from the Citation’s assessed advantages in terms of performance and price, a major factor acting in Kanematsu’s favour was the company’s 20-year track record of supplying special mission aircraft to the JASDF and its delivery of three Citation CJ4 flight inspection aircraft to the Civil Aviation Bureau, also in 2015.

JMSDF Commences Philippine Navy TC-90 Training

(Tokushima, November 28, 2016) The first of three two-student pilot courses for the Philippine Navy was commenced today at the JMSDF’s 202nd Naval Air Training Squadron. Involving 93 hours of ground school prior to 168 hours of flight training and conducted by five JMSDF instructors, the first course is planned to end in late March, the last in November 2017. The squadron will also provide training for Philippine Navy maintenance personnel.

PhilNavy TC-90 trainingA Philippine Navy pilot (left) familiarizes himself with the cockpit layout of a TC-90. The first two pilots
arrived at Tokushima to attend their four-month training course on November 22.
(Photo: JMSDF/Maritime Staff Office)

Stemming from a lease agreement for up to five TC-90s formally signed on October 26, the training programme marks the culmination of negotiations and preparations that had been under way for most of the year. Japan’s lifting of its self-imposed ban on weapons exports has already resulted in the Philippines being supplied with small coast guard vessels to bolster the country’s ability to safeguard its interests. (Update: It was reported in mid-February 2017 that the first two leased TC-90s were to be transferred to Manila the following month.)

JMSDF TC-90 TokushimaOne of the 202nd ATS’s TC-90GT aircraft moves off prior to the unit’s first training flight of the
year in January 2016.
(Photo: JMSDF/Tokushima AB) 

Having received its first TC-90, based on the Beechcraft C90, in February 1974, the JMSDF has received a total of 41 examples over the years. High-hour aircraft have been withdrawn from service and on occasion unceremoniously dumped at Tokushima. Identifiable by their four-bladed props, the seven most recent aircraft onwards are to the so-called GT standard, the first of which was delivered in 2008.

Postscript 1 On October 29, 2017, the Mainichi Shimbun reported that the Japanese government would be providing the Philippine Navy with five TC-90s free of charge in March 2018. Though not specified, this follows earlier reports that the existing five-aircraft lease agreement was in the process of being switched to one transferring ownership. As with the supply of UH-1H spares (see October 2017 bulletin), this move was made possible by a May 2017 revision to the Defense Law. The Mainichi report also states that the possibility of Japan making available surplus P-3Cs is also garnering interest not only from the Philippines but also from Malaysia and Vietnam.

Postscript 2 (March 2018) The second batch of three aircraft was handed over at a ceremony at Heracleto Alano naval base at Sangley Point, to the south of Manila, on March 26, 2018. One of the initial pair of aircraft had been used to mount a patrol of the disputed Scarborough Shoal area for the first time in late January, when its crew had sighted nine Chinese ships, including four Chinese coast guard patrol vessels. Aside from maritime surveillance, the TC-90 fleet is intended to fulfill an important role in humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HADR) operations.

Kakamigahara Storage Facility Opens to Public

Hien Kakamigahara exhibit

(November 2016) The above image is of front page of the flyer announcing the November 2016 opening of the Kakamigahara Aerospace Science Museum’s storage facility, where major assemblies of the restored Hien will be open to the public until the autumn of 2018, prior to the aircraft being rebuilt and prepared for permanent display. See Flying Swallow Comes Home to Roost below and the Aviation Museums page of this website.

Opening hours: 09:30 to 16:30, last admission 16:00
Closed Tuesdays and national holidays, on the Wednesday if a national holiday should fall on a Tuesday.
Note also that, as at December 12, 2016, the museum was planning to close the facility for maintenance from January 28 to February 14, 2017.
General admission fee: 300 yen

Nyutabaru Says Sayonara to the Phantom

Nyutabaru 301st Sqn(Photo: JASDF/Nyutabaru AB)

(October 31, 2016) Meanwhile, following a send-off ceremony over at Nyutabaru AB in Miyazaki Prefecture, the last 301st Sqn F-4EJKai Phantom departed for Hyakuri AB, Chiba Prefecture, bringing down the curtain on a squadron-base association that lasted for more than 30 years.

It was March 1985 when the 301st had moved in the opposite direction to take over the responsibilities of the vacating 205th Sqn that had headed to Hyakuri and re-equipment from the F-104J onto the F-15J.

As a precursor to this latest relocation, the base had held a final F-4 public display and demonstration flight on October 2 to show its gratitude to local residents. Four of the nine F-4EJKai aircraft neatly parked on the apron took part in a half-hour flying display. According to the local press, the event attracted around 7,000 people.

Nyutabaru F-4 poster

As the based Aggressor Squadron’s F-15s have been operated from Komatsu AB, Ishikawa Prefecture, since June, it will be very much a new-look Nyutabaru airshow on December 4 this year.

First of the Phantoms

F-4EJ 17-8301 Gifu 161031

(October 30, 2016) First flown on January 14, 1971—now all of 45 years ago—the first of the two F-4EJs built by McDonnell-Douglas was still very much alive and well with the Air Development & Test Wing at this year’s Gifu AB airshow. (Photos: Hunini via Wikimedia Commons)

Postscript The December 2018 issue of Kōkū Fan magazine included a photo of factory-refreshed ‘301’ taken on September 28, 2018, when the aircraft was returned to service after undergoing an inspect and repair as necessary (IRAN) check at Mitsubishi’s Nagoya plant. The magazine surmises that the aircraft’s utilization by a test unit has resulted in its having more airframe hours remaining than its squadron-assigned counterparts. In contrast, the previous month’s issue had published a photo of specially painted ‘320’ during its last flight from Hyakuri, on September 5, 2018; its final landing is recorded here (link).

F-4EJ 17-8301 Gifu 161030 nose

Kawasaki Completes Last JGSDF OH-6D Overhaul

last KHI OH-6D overhaul(Photo: KHI)

(August 30, 2016) In a press release dated today, Kawasaki Heavy Industries (KHI) announced the delivery of the last JGSDF OH-6D following scheduled inspect and repair as necessary (IRAN) procedures with the company.

After its final visit to its Gifu factory furusato (place of birth), the aircraft was due to return to service with the 6th Aviation Squadron at Jinmachi Army Camp, Yamagata Prefecture.

Having signed an OH-6J licence production contract with Hughes Helicopters (now MD Helicopters) way back in 1967, KHI drip fed the JGSDF with 193 OH-6Ds as successors to OH-6Js between 1979 and 1997. The company commenced an IRAN work cycle on the later variant under Japan Defense Agency (now Ministry of Defense) contract in 1983 and carried out the financially lucrative maintenance procedures a total of 1,055 times, or on an average of around 32 times a year.

First JASDF F-35A Makes Maiden Flight

JASDF F-35A first flight(Photo: Lockheed Martin)

(August 24, 2016) The first of the four U.S.-built F-35A Lightning IIs destined for the JASDF (above) took to the skies for the first time for around 90 minutes on August 24, 2016, flown by Lockheed Martin test pilot Paul Hattendorf.

JASDF first F-35A(Photo: JASDF)

Previously, on August 15, the JASDF had released two photos of the aircraft, taken in a hangar at Lockheed-Martin’s Dallas-Fort Worth facility following the completion of the assembly process. After its official handover in September, the aircraft will be used for pilot training at Luke AFB, Arizona, from November; JASDF ground crew training is already under way at Eglin AB, Florida. All four aircraft are scheduled to be delivered to the JASDF before the end of the year.

F-35As are scheduled to form part of the Misawa-based 3rd Air Wing by the end of  March 2018.

Arrival of 8th Sqn Turns Tsuiki into “F-2 Town”

8th Sqn JASDF F-2 (Photo: JASDF/Misawa AB)

(July 29, 2016) Following today’s marking of the official integration of the 8th Sqn following the move of its 20 aircraft and 2,800 or so personnel from Misawa, Tsuiki became a two squadron F-2 base.

A ceremony held at Misawa on July 12 had heralded the start of the squadron’s move, after 38 years, from Aomori to join the 6th Sqn under the 8th Air Wing in the warmer southern climes of Fukuoka Prefecture.

(At the time of the Tsuiki airshow on November 27, a hangar display featured an aircraft from each unit sporting special commemorative tail markings, albeit in the form of stickers that prohibited any flying.)

First Production C-2 Delivered

C- 2 08-1201-68-1203The camouflaged first production C-2 formates with the first prototype XC-2 in the skies over Gifu.
(Photo: Japan Ministry of Defense/ATLA)

(June 30, 2016) Kawasaki Heavy Industries (KHI) finally officially delivered the first production C-2 to the Japan Ministry of Defense at a ceremony held today at KHI’s Gifu plant.

Having first flown on May 17, the aircraft will be used to conduct test flights with the two prototypes in a bid to make up for more of the time lost in a development programme that has been beset with delays. Originally envisaged to have been completed by the end of March 2016, it is anticipated that testing will continue until the spring of 2021. In the meantime, after receiving type approval for squadron utilization, three aircraft are scheduled to be delivered to the 3rd Tactical Airlift Group at Miho AB, Tottori Prefecture, for operational testing from fiscal 2017.

(The second production aircraft, which made its maiden flight on October 20, is due for delivery in 2017.)

X-2 Makes Maiden Flight

X-2 first flight(Photo: JASDF)

(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).

A four-photo slideshow can be found on the Asahi Shimbun website (link) along with 50 seconds of video footage (link).

Information on the development of the X-2 can be found on the JASDF Aircraft Programmes page of this website (X-2).

U-125As Sport Experimental Camouflage Schemes

Komatsu camouflaged U-125A(Photo: JASDF Komatsu AB/Komatsu Kōkū Club)

(Komaki, April 20, 2016) Today saw the first flight of Komatsu-based U-125A ‘028’, which after overhaul at Komaki AB is now configured for the Combat Search and Rescue (CSAR) mission. Finished in an experimental dark blue upper surfaces, like the UH-60Js with which the type operates, this rescue aircraft is itself fitted with aircraft survival equipment (ASE), such as wingtip-mounted missile-warning system (MWS) sensors and fuselage-mounted chaff/flare dispensers.

Sporting more of an F-2 fighter-inspired camouflage scheme, a second aircraft, ‘027’, appeared in July [link].

Kate Displayed at Pacific Aviation Museum Pearl Harbor

Pearl Harbor Museum Kate (1)(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).

Pearl Harbor Museum Kate (2)(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.

Wings Museum KateThe 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 Shimushu (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. This little-known theatre of operations is the subject of a well-researched book, The Last Flight of Bomber 31 by Ralph Wetterhahn (Carroll & Graf, 2004). 

JAA’s Aviation Heritage Archive Publishes Latest Book

J-BIRD cover
(April 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 19211945, 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

JGSDF BeppuWhile 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

(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.

JCG Super Puma MH687(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

(March 2016) 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.

Blue Impulse(Photo: JASDF)

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. (Postscript:  The team was testing coloured smoke late in August 2019, possibly with a view to reprising its then F-86F display at the opening of the 1964 Olympics at next year’s Games.)

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.

Hien YokotaThe 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

LR-1 last flight (1)(Photo: JGSDF Kisarazu)

(February 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.)

LR-1 last flight (2)(Photo: JGSDF)

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.

LR-1 last flight (3)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 right-wing 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-107II-4A in store at Kisarazu and be aired at base events.




Airshows in 2020
Apr. 5  Kumagaya
May 24  Hofu
May 24  Shizuhama
June*  Miho
July 19  Chitose
Aug. 23  Matsushima
Sept.*  Komatsu
Sept.*  Misawa
Oct.*  Ashiya
Oct.*  Hamamatsu
Oct.*  Hyakuri
  (SDF Review)
Oct.*  Komaki
Nov. 3  Iruma
Nov.*  Gifu
Dec.*  Tsuiki
Dec.*  Naha
Dec.*  Nyutabaru

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 2020
Jan. 12  Narashino
(paratroop display)
Apr. 11 Somagahara

May 24  Okadama
Oct.*  Kisarazu
Oct.*  Metabaru
Oct.*  Yao
Nov.*  Akeno
Nov.*  Tachikawa

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 2020
Apr. 11 Atsugi
(joint Friendship Day/
Apr. 26  Kanoya
May 5  Iwakuni
(joint Friendship Day/
Oct.*  Ozuki
Oct.*  Shimofusa
Nov.*  Tokushima

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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