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J-HangarSpace Bulletin Board

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.

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.

JMSDF SH-60J Fleet Grounded Following Night Training Crash

JMSDF SH-60J(Photo: JMSDF)

(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
(link).

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)

(Apr. 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

(Apr. 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 Flight 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)

(Mar. 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)

(Mar. 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

(Mar. 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)

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

(Mar. 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])

(Feb. 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 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.

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)

F-4EJ 17-8301 Gifu 161030 nose

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) 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.

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.

Notices

Announcements

JASDF
2017 Airshow Dates
Mar. 5  Komaki
Apr. 2  Kumagaya

JASDF Hofu-Kita

May 21  Hofu-Kita
May 21  Shizuhama

Miho poster 2017

May 28  Miho
July 23  Chitose
Aug. 27  Matsushima
Sept. 10  Misawa
Sept. 18  Komatsu
Oct. 1  Akita

Oct. 15  Hamamatsu
Nov. 3  Iruma
Nov. 19  Gifu
Nov. 25  Kasuga
Nov. 26  Tsuiki
Dec. 3  Nyutabaru
Dec. 9-10  Naha

2018 Airshow Dates
Feb. 18  Ashiya
Mar. 3  Komaki
Nov. 3  Iruma
Nov. *  Hyakuri

JGSDF
2017 Airshow Dates

Kisarazu 170225

Feb. 25  Kisarazu

Metabaru 2017

Apr. 1  Metabaru
(Cherry Blossom
    Festival on Apr. 2)

Somagahara 170408

Apr. 8  Somagahara
Apr. 9  Takayubaru

Apr. 16  Kasuminome
   (60th anniversary)

Utsunomiya 170416

Apr. 16  Utsunomiya
   (67th anniversary
   with parade/flypast)
May 21  Kasumigaura
   (64th anniversary)
May 28
    Kita-Utsunomiya
   (44th anniversary)
June 25  Okadama
Sept. 2  Obihiro

Kisarazu poster 2017

Sept. 10  Kisarazu
Oct. 15  Yao
Nov. 4  Akeno
Nov. 19  Naha
Nov. 23  Tachikawa

2018 Airshow Dates
Jan. 7  Kisarazu
Jan. 14  Narashino 

JMSDF
2017 Airshow Dates
Apr. 29  NAF Atsugi
Apr. 30  Kanoya
May 5  Iwakuni
(joint Friendship Day)
May 21  Omura
June 10  Ohminato
July 16 Komatsushima

Ozuki event July 2017

July 23  Ozuki
  (Children’s event)
July 29  Maizuru
July 29  Tateyama
Sept. 24  Hachinohe
Sept. 30  Tokushima
Oct. 7  Shimofusa

Ozuki Swell 2017

Oct. 22  Ozuki
  (“Swell Festival”)

(*) Date to be confirmed

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


Links

The Aviation Historian

Japan Association of Aviation Photo-
graphers
 (JAAP, Japanese only)

Asian Air Arms

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