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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) 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.

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 SakuraSoTV channel, “Japan’s first history and culture station,” and made available on YouTube. The 17-minute segment on the last flight ceremony starts around eight minutes into the programme, which follows a recruitment commercial for the “Japan Goround Self-Defense-Force” (sic) that features footage taken inside a CH-47.

The LR-1 engine startup sequence is covered from around the 11:30 mark, after the speeches from the 1st Helicopter Brigade commander and a Mr. Nomura, the retired pilot who was in the first fixed-wing pilot course intake. After providing footage of the last flight, the report ends by conducting interviews with the crew and with a Colonel Satō, the commander of the brigade’s Liaison and Reconnaissance Flight.

Presumably, 22019 will now join the VIP-configured KV-107IIA-4 in store at Kisarazu and be aired at base events.

Notices

Announcements

JASDF
2016 Airshow Dates
Mar. 13  Komaki

Kumagaya AB 2016

Apr. 3  Kumagaya

Hofu-Kita leaflet 2016

May 22  Hofu-Kita

Miho poster 2016

May 29  Miho
Aug. 7  Chitose
Sept. 11  Misawa
Sept. 19  Komatsu
Sept. 25  Akita
        (Airport event)
Sept. 25  Shizuhama
Oct. 9  Ashiya
Oct. 16  Hamamatsu
Oct. 30  Gifu
Nov. 3  Iruma
Nov. 26  Kasuga
Nov. 27  Hyakuri
Nov. 27  Tsuiki
Dec. 4  Nyutabaru
Dec. 11  Naha

2017 Airshow Dates
Mar. 5  Komaki
Apr. 2  Kumagaya
May 21  Hofu-Kita
May 21  Shizuhama
May 28  Miho
July*  Chitose
Oct.*  Ashiya
Oct.*  Gifu
Oct.* Hamamatsu
Nov. 3  Iruma
Nov.*  Tsuiki
Sept.*  Komatsu
Sept.*  Misawa
Oct.*  Hyakuri
  (SDF Review)
Dec.*  Naha
Dec.*  Nyutabaru

2018 Airshow Dates
Nov. 3  Iruma
Nov. *  Hyakuri

JGSDF
2016 Airshow Dates
Apr. 9  Somagahara
Apr. 10  Takayubaru

Metabaru 2016

Apr. 16  Metabaru
Apr. 17  Kasuminome
Apr. 23  Hachinohe
Apr. 24  Narashino
June 5  Kasumigaura
June 19  Asahikawa
June 19  Kita-
          Utsunomiya
June 19  Okadama
Sept. 10  Obihiro
Oct. 1  Tachikawa
Oct. 2  Akeno
Oct. 16  Yao
Nov. 20  Naha

2017 Airshow Dates

Kisarazu 170225

Feb. 25  Kisarazu

Metabaru 2017

Apr. 1  Metabaru
(Cherry Blossom
    Festival on Apr. 2)
Apr. 8  Somagahara
Apr. 16  Kasuminome
   (60th anniversary)
Apr. 16  Utsunomiya
May 28
    Kita-Utsunomiya
June 25  Obihiro

JMSDF
2016 Airshow Dates
Apr. 24  Kanoya
             (Cancelled)
April 30  NAF Atsugi
May 5  Iwakuni
  (+ Friendship Day)
May 22  Omura
             (Cancelled)
June 4  Ohminato
July 16  Maizuru

July 17 Komatsushima
July 18  Kobe-Hanshin
July 30  Tateyama
Sept. 4  Hachinohe
Sept. 25  Tokushima
Oct. 16    Ozuki
  (“Swell Festival”)
Oct. 29  Shimofusa

2017 Airshow Dates
Apr. 29  Kanoya
Apr. 29  NAF Atsugi
May 5  Iwakuni
(joint Friendship Day)

(*) 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

Visitors
(from Feb. 2016, earlier shown below)

Visitors to Feb. 2016

Past visitors