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Temporary Employment for OH-6D Otherwise on Skid Row

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a collection point for helicopters that have been placed in storage or withdrawn from use.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

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

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

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

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

r01tamamono_2crs(Photo: JGSDF Tachikawa Army Camp)

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

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

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

And Then There Was One

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For Sale:  Jumbo Slice of JASDF History

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

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

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

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

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

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

Anti-Tailgating Air Patrols All the Rage

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

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

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

Woman Reaches New Heights As US-2 Pilot

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Restart of F-35A Operations One Step Closer

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

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

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

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

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

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

And J79s Will Sound No More

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

phantomtour501(Photo: JASDF Hyakuri AB)

“Flying Egg” Headed for Final Scramble 

OH-6D Okadama(Photo: JGSDF Okadama)

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

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

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

IMG_4944crs

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

IMG_4653crs

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

T-4 Flight Ban Lifted, with Strings Attached

T-4 on jacks

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tragic Start to 302nd Sqn F-35A Operations

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rare Sights at Tokorozawa Aviation Museum

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

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

JCG Bids Fond Farewell to Bell 206s

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tsunami Remembrance Observed at Matsushima AB

Matsushima 190311(Photo: JASDF Matsushima AB)

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

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

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

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

Matsushima March 2011(Photo: JASDF)

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

Final Curtain Falling on 302nd Sqn Phantoms

302 Sqn 190302(Photo: JASDF Hyakuri AB)

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

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

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

Three-Year Flight Ban on OH-1s Lifted

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

UH-X Protoype Delivered with Due Ceremony

UH-X delivery(Photo: JGSDF)

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

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

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

JGSDF Woman Pilot Achieves Unique Goal

JGSDF LR-2 pilot Ono(Photo: JGSDF)

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

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

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

F-2B Crashes into Sea, Both Pilots Rescued

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tranquility Base

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

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

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

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

After One Month, JGSDF’s Newest Helicopter Carries Armament

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ministry of Defense Announces Budget Awards

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

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

JCG Woman Pilot Gets Pair of Pumas for Christmas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Deep Pockets to Produce “Pocket Carriers”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Telling Tales of F-2 Tails

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

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

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

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

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

築上町マスコットキャラクター
きづき のぼる
「築 上」君

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

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

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

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

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

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

Iruma Air Show’s Enduring Appeal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Iruma Totes Toned-down T-4

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

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

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

Iruma T-4

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

Japan Coast Guard’s First Falcon 2000 Unveiled

Japan Coast Guard Falcon 2000(Photo: Dassault Aviation)

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

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

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

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

“Kabuki” C-1 Ready to Take Centre Stage

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Tale of Two T-5s . . .

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

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

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

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

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

. . . and a JASDF T-7

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

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

More Hawkeyes on JASDF Procurement Radar

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

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

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

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

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

SDF Mobilized in Response to Hokkaido Earthquake

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

First JASDF Woman Jet Jockey Qualifies

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

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

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

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

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

First Women Pilots Qualified on Frontline Jet Aircraft by Air Arm

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

In Chronological Order

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

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

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

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

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

First JASDF Boeing 777 Arrives

B777 JASDFPAO(Photo: JASDF Public Affairs Office)

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

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

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

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

Tragedy Now Befalls Gunma Prefectural Aviation Unit

Gunma Haruna

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

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

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

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

Air Rescue Wing Reaches Diamond Jubilee

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This Year’s JCG Repeat Order for H225

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

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

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

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

Phantom Phase-out Continues—and on Video

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

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

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

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

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

JMSDF Reorganizes UH-60J SAR Units

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

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

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

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

Japan Coast Guard’s Newest Helicopters Arrive

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kakamigahara Museum Reopens after Major Renovation

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

(Photo: Tourist Attractions in Gifu Prefecture)

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

Gifu-Kakamigahara Air and Space Museum logo

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

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

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

JGSDF Suffers Loss of Apache Helicopter Crew

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

First JASDF F-35A Reports for Duty at Misawa

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sharer Sought for Fighter Squadron Home—Apply Nyutabaru AB

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Notices

Announcements

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

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

air-festa-hohu_img2019rs

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

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

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

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Tachikawa

JMSDF
Airshows in 2020
Apr. 11 Atsugi
(joint Friendship Day/
                 cancelled)
Apr. 26  Kanoya
                (Cancelled)
May 5  Iwakuni
(joint Friendship Day/
                 cancelled)
Oct.*  Ozuki
Oct.*  Shimofusa
Nov.*  Tokushima

Airshows in 2019
Apr. 27  Atsugi
Apr. 28  Kanoya
May 5  Iwakuni
(joint Friendship Day)
May 18  Maizuru
May 19  Ohmura
July 13-14
          Komatsushima
July 27  Tateyama
Sept. 21  Hachinohe
ozuki191020rs

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

oomura190519rs

shimofusa191026rs

(*) Date to be confirmed

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

Links

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graphers
 (JAAP, Japanese only)

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