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Heading into 2022

(Photo: AKIRESSOR via Twitter @AKIhimitsukichi)

(Photo: しだーぱむぱむvia Twitter @EPSHV)

(Photo: コスモvia Twitter @COSMO_IRUMA)

(Photo: はしみつvia Twitter @f4ejk)

(Photo: おーしvia Twitter @MilibakaOshisan)

(Photo: はしみつvia Twitter @f4ejk)

(Photo: TNG RNT02 via Twitter @RntTng2_Sengoku)

(Photo: JMSDF Fleet Air Force via Twitter @jmsdf_af)

(Photo: はしみつvia Twitter @f4ejk)

(Photo [Gunma-based MD-900 JA6911]: KJ via Twitter @JA10GR_JA01GP)

(Photo: ちいすけ via Twitter @mononoke2020)

(Photo [Gifu Prefectural Police Bell 412EP]: KJ via Twitter @JA10GR_JA01GP)

As a new departure from 2021, J-HangarSpace has been endeavouring to focus more on SDF historical rather than current events. As a start, during the course of an update of the JGSDF Where Are They Now? section, some interesting and even little-known information was unearthed on the in-service and subsequent fates of some the Fuji LM-1 fleet. This was also covered in part on the Bulletin Board page (story dated Jan. 21, 2021).

(Photo [Oita Airport, Jan. 1969]: Takao Kadokami)

Something of a “beyond all recognition” test, N6524 (above) was the registration applied for legal purposes to what had once been the JASDF T-6G 72-0159. The aircraft had been modified to appear as a fake Kate torpedo bomber in the film Tora! Tora! Tora!, which was released in 1970. More details can be found in the Bulletin Board page entry for February 2021.

“Weekend Nyutabaru” PR Events Held

(Image: JASDF Public Affairs Office via Twitter @JASDF_PAO)

(December 6, 2021) Having in October cancelled its air show that had been optimistically scheduled for yesterday, Nyutabaru opted to hold local PR/recruitment events in the mornings over this past weekend instead.

Taking advantage of the Blue Impulse team’s presence for training to incorporate its first displays in Kyushu this year, events from both days were lengthily live-streamed via YouTube as traffic restrictions had been imposed around the base.

A mixed formation of resident 23rd Fighter Training Squadron and 305th TFS aircraft 
performs a low pass during rehearsals for the Weekend Nyutabaru events.

(Photo [Dec. 2, 2021]: GILUS28 via Twitter @rw28nyutabaruST)

The second day’s event was targeted at a maximum of 1,000 residents of Kagoshima, Kumamoto and Miyazaki prefectures who might be interested in joining the JASDF and would be between the ages of 18 and 32 on March 31, 2022. Applications had been accepted up to a November 2 deadline to allow time for official invitations to be sent out and a limited number of on-base car park spaces assigned. Naturally, even on the wide-open spaces of the base, the wearing of masks was compulsory.

A photo with the feel of a Higashiyama nihonga painting. The Blue Impulse team’s last visit to
Nyutabaru had been for five days of remote-base training in mid-December 2020.
(Photo [Dec. 3, 2021]: たばる via Twitter @taba_san)

Olympic Games logo copyright laws safely circumvented.
(Photo [Dec. 5, 2021]: ひゅうが via Twitter @hyuga_mt_419)

O-1A Odyssey Observed

Now registered to Southern Sailplanes, the ownership of what was once JGSDF O-1A JG-10107 has
changed from Hawaii to Hungerford in the UK. G-VNAM’s home airfield is nearby Membury.

(Photo: via Laurie Gregoire)

(November 2021) It was recently brought to J-HangarSpace’s attention that a Cessna L-19A (O-1A) Bird Dog that saw service with the JGSDF has, after a four-year rebuild, been returned to airworthiness by its current owners in the UK.

Accepted by the U.S. Air Force as 51-4781, so all of 70 years ago, serial number 21666 was passed to the U.S. Army and then supplied via the Military Assistance Program to Japan. Handed over to the JGSDF on July 19, 1954, 18 days after the service had officially come into existence, the aircraft’s serial had been overtaken by events. Until given the JGSDF serial 11017 in November 1956, the aircraft reportedly carried H-1017, the H signifying Hōantai (National Security Force), the JGSDF’s predecessor.

The only photo record of its JGSDF career found thus far has been images taken of the same formation of O-1s. The photo first appeared in a 1969 photo collection of SDF aircraft produced by Kantosha, the then publisher of Aireview magazine. Flying over a snowscape, the formation is made up of five, ski-equipped aircraft from various units; 11017 at that time carried an N on either side of its nose, denoting the Northern Regional Army Aviation Squadron at Okadama, Hokkaido Prefecture.

Its JGSDF markings already removed, 51-4781 is seen here derigged and ready for shipping
outside a hangar at an unknown location in Japan in 1979.
(Photo: via Laurie Gregoire)

Its JGSDF service career officially declared over after 8,000 flight hours on March 31, 1978, the aircraft was returned to the United States government and transferred to the U.S. Air Force Auxiliary Civil Air Patrol. Its certificate of airworthiness was issued for NR5074G on April 20, 1982.

Its next life, as a glider tug with Soar Hawaii Sailplanes of Honolulu, commenced with its registration as N5074G on November 16, 1999. The aircraft reportedly briefly changed hands to another owner on April 21, 2010, but a month later was officially on the books with Elmer’s Gliders and Sailplanes, based at U.S. Army-owned Dillingham airfield on Oahu. During its time in Hawaii, an excessive 10,000 hard-working hours were added to the airframe’s total flight time. This photo (link) shows the aircraft at Dillingham in February 2011.

Its U.S. registration cancelled on July 31, 2017, the aircraft was exported to the UK and registered G-VNAM. New owner Laurie Gregoire informed J-HangarSpace that peeling off the paint layers had revealed Civil Air Patrol colours, then JGSDF green followed by the remains of U.S. Army markings, with quite a lot of JGSDF orange remaining inside the wings.

It took four years to rebuild the aircraft, which is now “at best 50% original”. The standard of the restoration work did sufficiently impress the judges at the Goodwood Revival Weekend in September 2021 for those efforts to win Laurie, and Shona Bowman, first prize in the Spirit of Aviation concours category.

40 Years of Aggressive Behaviour

(Photo: JASDF Komatsu AB via Twitter @JasdfKomatsu)

(November 2021) It was on December 14, 1981, that the unit officially called the Tactical Fighter Training Group formed at Tsuiki AB on the Mitsubishi T-2.

Fast forward 40 years, and the unit is marking its ruby jubilee at Komatsu, its base since making the move from Nyutabaru in May 2016.

As the Aggressor Squadron must use up more than the normal unit’s paint budget on the colour schemes that assist in fulfilling its role, no specially marked aircraft has been prepared. Instead, the two “standard scheme” aircraft shown have been selected to carry commemorative drop tank designs.

32-8082 also featured in the Bulletin Board story dated August 28, 2020, at around the time this its
latest colour scheme was applied.
(Photo: JASDF Komatsu AB via Twitter @JasdfKomatsu)

(Photos: JASDF Komatsu AB via Twitter @JasdfKomatsu)

More details of the unit’s history can be found on a dedicated page of this website, to which information is being progressively added.

Temporary Change of Scenery for Komaki’s T-1B

(Aichi Museum of Flight publicity poster)

(November 2021) The Fuji T-1 that has been on outdoor display at Komaki AB since July 2006 is about to be given short-term shelter.

The aircraft will provide the focal point of a special exhibit at the Aichi Museum of Flight that is planned to run from November 27 to March 14, 2022, to mark the facility’s fourth anniversary, which falls on November 30.

By means of panel displays and other media, the Japanese Aircraft Manufacturing and the Fuji T-1 Hatsutaka exhibit will trace episodes in the development and long service career of what was Japan’s first indigenously produced postwar jet aircraft. To appeal more to the younger visitor, the panel displays will feature artwork by a well-known aviation illustrator, as featured in the above poster.

T-1B ’866 takes off as one of a pair from Komaki during the final year of operations, when flown by
the 5th Air Technical School to provide training for air traffic controllers.
(Photo: きりしま via Twitter @us1a_flyingboat)

T-1B 35-5866 will make a fitting centrepiece, as the aircraft was present at Komaki on the day of the type’s final flights, on March 3, 2006. The date of its withdrawal from service, on May 11 that year, came 43 years to the day after its delivery.

This great photo shows ’866 just about airborne from Komaki in October 2005 (link). In an episode that will not be mentioned at the exhibition, the aircraft was one of those that were embarrassingly engulfed by a rampaging supply drop parachute in what was fortunately a rehearsal for the SDF review ceremony at Hyakuri that same month (link).

Gifu AB Runway Walk 2021

(Photo: KOJI via Twitter@KOJIRJNG)

(November 15, 2021) In view of the cancellation of all base air shows again this year, up to 5,000 members of the Japanese general public were yesterday granted special permission to visit a crowd-free Gifu AB. Meteorological and virological conditions fortunately permitted the base to mark, actually three months early, the 64th anniversary of its opening in January 1958.

(Photo: JASDF Gifu AB via Twitter @JASDF_GIFUAB)

An event that has proved popular in recent years at Iruma AB, the runway walk event at Gifu was only the second of its kind since April 2016. Admission was by lottery, the postcard entries for which had to be submitted in the first half of October. Invitations were limited to residents of Gifu Prefecture, priority being given to those living in Kakamigahara City, where the base is located.

For many, the star of the day’s non-airshow (Photo: Itami via Twitter @nhb8ja801a)

The gates were opened for three hours. During that time visitors were able to walk the two-kilometre runway and view at close quarters resident aircraft and equipment on the flight line and displayed in hangars as additional attractions.

That first Gifu runway walk in 2016 was a support event held as part of the celebrations marking the 70th National Recreation Association of Japan event in Gifu and also the base’s then upcoming centenary. Four times over-subscribed, on that occasion only a fortunate-few 500 people had gained admittance, which cost them all of 500 yen each.

Hopefully, 2022 will see the gradual resumption of normal air show services.

A sign at the start of the walk requested that participants kindly not drop anything on the runway.
(Photo: JASDF Gifu AB via Twitter @JASDF_GIFUAB)

JMSDF Parent Organizations Hit 60

Obviously not designed with the environmentalist in mind, the “elephant walk” marking the
60th anniversary of the Fleet Air Force’s establishment under way at Atsugi on November 3.

(Photo: JMSDF Fleet Air Force via Twitter @jmsdf_af)

(November 2021) Two JMSDF air commands recently celebrated their diamond jubilees in contrasting styles.

On November 3, an “elephant walk” procession along the runway was organized at Atsugi as part of the events marking the 60th anniversary of the Fleet Air Force, which came into being on September 1, 1961. The term “elephant walk” was originally coined to describe the departures of mass formations of U.S. Army Air Force aircraft during World War II. (The JASDF’s Tsuiki-based 8th TFS had used the same celebration to mark its own 60th anniversary in April.).

Among the 16 aircraft that took part were JMSDF aircraft visiting from Iwakuni and, bringing up
the rear, a U.S. Navy P-8 Poseidon.
(Photo: JMSDF Fleet Air Force via Twitter @jmsdf_af)

(Image: Japan Ministry of Defense/JMSDF)

This might seem to have been an unlikely choice of event as, since the mid-1970s, Atsugi has been one of the bases with a U.S. military presence that have been at the centre of legal disputes with local residents’ groups over noise. One local resident told J-HangarSpace that the noise levels had, not surprisingly, improved somewhat following the U.S. Navy’s phased relocation of its fixed-wing elements to Iwakuni, which was completed in 2018.

The clean-air, comparatively serene scene at Kanoya on October 8, 2021.
(Photo: JMSDF Air Training Command via Twitter @jmsdf_atrc)

Previously, the powers that be at Air Training Command, which was likewise established as part of that major reorganization on September 1, 1961, had arranged for five current aircraft to be corralled in a celebratory circle at Kanoya for a low-key photo shoot.

Memorial in the Mountains

Nearly 45 years after the 7th Sqn disbanded, the commander of the unit’s former Matsushima
home base pays his respects at a memorial near the town of Mogami, in the mountains of
Yamagata Prefecture.
(Photo: JASDF Matsushima AB via Twitter @matsushimabase)

(October 20, 2021) Today, personnel from Matsushima AB paid their respects and made offerings at a remote memorial in a mountain forest.

As reported in the March 1968 issue of Aireview magazine, it was at 1:30 p.m. on January 17, 1968, that a 7th Sqn F-86F piloted by 1st Lt. Norio Kaminishi took off from Matsushima on a combat training exercise involving nosedive manoeuvres in the skies above the town of Naruko, Miyagi Prefecture. At 1:58, contact was lost after he had dived into cloud. By the end of that month, air and ground searches had proven fruitless.

It was only on February 17, after the crash site was stumbled upon by a party from Matsushima AB on winter survival training, that Kaminishi’s loss on active service could be confirmed. At the time, the then Japan Defense Agency stated that the cause of the accident was unknown, but it would appear to have been what today would be termed as pilot disorientation leading to controlled flight into terrain. As tradition dictates, 26-year-old Kaminishi was posthumously promoted to the rank of captain.

The well-tended memorial in the above photo was erected by members of an alpine club from the local town of Miyazaki in September 1974.

A lineup of 7th Sqn F-86Fs at Matsushima in July 1976, about a year before the unit’s disbandment.
(Photo: Akira Watanabe)

41st Sqn JASDF Relocates to Hamamatsu

(Photo: JASDF Hamamatsu AB via Twitter @JASDFhamamatsu)

(October 2021) The first fuzzy photo of a T-400 wearing the 1st Air Wing’s checkerboard tail marking having appeared in the Twittersphere early this month, confirmation that the 41st Flight Training Sqn’s anticipated move to Hamamatsu was taking place came from that base via the same source on the 14th.

The move brings to an end the 41st’s long association with the 3rd Tactical Airlift Group at Miho, which dates back to its provisional unit days in 1994. It was in March 2018 that the Japan Ministry of Defense had published a report that had proposed the relocation to Hamamatsu.

Axe Hangs over Tokorozawa Helicopters

(Photo taken in May 2013)

(October 2021) First reported in the November issue of JWings, the former JGSDF Sikorsky H-19C and Vertol V-44A at the Tokorozawa Aviation Museum (link) are set to be returned to the SDF. This was confirmed to J-HangarSpace by the museum’s deputy director, who also said that no date had yet been decided.

Photos showing the condition of the two aircraft in February 2020.
(Photos: J-HangarSpace)

Having joined the JGSDF’s ranks in the 1950s, these two now unique aircraft have been present since the museum’s opening in April 1993. One can only hope that the JGSDF will see fit to give them pride of place somewhere, ideally in a new, purpose-built annex next to the museum at Kisarazu (link), which will also be able to accommodate the resident, weather-beaten LR-1.

JGSDF King Air Gains Crown of Office

(Photo [Sendai, August 2021]: 飛行機・鉄道大好きな人via Twitter @kimi_boku_anata)

(September 2021) First reports of a modified LR-2 having surfaced in July, the aircraft now sporting a dorsal fairing was still undergoing flight testing at JAMCO Corporation’s Sendai facility late last month.

The fairing presumably serves the same purpose as that fitted over the satellite communications (SATCOM) antenna of the somewhat more extensively equipped MC-12W Liberty versions of the Super King Air. These are operated in the intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) role by the U.S. Air Force.

The ‘W’ on the nose would indicate that the aircraft is destined to return to service with the JGSDF’s Western Army HQ Flight at Takayubaru, Kumamoto Prefecture, from whence it had been flown to Sendai in May.

Gunma Prefecture Restarts Helicopter Operations

The vermilion line in AW139 Haruna’s colour scheme is said to represent a renge azalea,
Gunma Prefecture’s official flower.
(Photo [Nov. 2021]: stone via Twitter @stone15dj)

(September 8, 2021) An official commissioning ceremony was held in a hangar at Maebashi heliport today for the Leonardo AW139 operated by Gunma Prefecture’s fire/disaster response unit.

The aircraft had been used for pilot training since its delivery in December of last year; training with rescue team members on board commenced in April 2021. The aircraft bears the name Haruna, that of a local mountain, continuing the tradition from its predecessor. The unit’s first aircraft, a Bell 212EP, was lost in an accident that took place on August 10, 2018, and claimed the lives of all nine on board. (See Bulletin Board story for that date.)

In the intervening three years, helicopters from neighbouring Saitama and Tochigi prefectures provided emergency cover, and Gunma Prefecture switched operating company from Toho Air Service to Aero Asahi, which operates the prefecture’s Doctor-Heli service. A dual-pilot system has been introduced for a better equipped aircraft in a reorganized unit.

Getting into That Northern Spirit

(Photo: JGSDF Northern Army PR via Twitter @NorthernArmy_pr)

(August 10, 2021) Air shows may be still off the menu, but the use of hardware in the promotion of SDF careers must go on, albeit at a somewhat more low-key level.

These activities date back to the 1960s, when retired aircraft would be parked at amusement parks and even atop department stores to serve as a focal point.

First held in 1994, the annual tri-service Northern Spirit event has apparently attracted a total of around 9,000 participants. Designed to “deepen interest in and the understanding of the SDFs,” this year’s venue for the aviation PR activities was Chitose.

Ashiya and Its ARS Join over 60s Club

The specially black tiger-striped U-125A sits on the apron at a seemingly deserted Ashiya.
Note that the red ‘A’ on the front fuselage
completes the U-125A and the unit wording. 
(Photo: JASDF/Ashiya AB via Twitter @jasdf_ashiya)

(July 15, 2021) Not wishing to let a double diamond celebration jubilee slip by unnoticed, the Ashiya Air Rescue Squadron marked its major milestone in the time-honoured fashion by giving an example of each of the aircraft types operated special paint jobs.

The markings served a dual purpose, as Ashiya itself was established on February 1, 1961. A minor detail: the flying unit formed on July 15, 1961, was actually the Ashiya Air Rescue Detachment, which was not granted squadron status until December 1, 1964.

In partial recompense for being unable to host an air show again this year, the base posted photos on its Twitter account of the two aircraft specially marked with variations on the ARS’s tiger marking theme. These were due to be retained until the end of September.

Parked next to the U-125A for the photo call, the UH-60J sports blue tiger stripes edged in
white and
a yellow ‘A’ in front of the unit wording on the side of the fuselage. 
(Photo: JASDF/Ashiya AB via Twitter @jasdf_ashiya)

For detail photos, see the Ashiya ARS entry on the JASDF Squadron Histories Part 3 page.

Phantom ‘415 Finally Put Out to Grass

(Photo: CASTLE 41 via Twitter @NRT0324)

(July 2021) Phantom 87-8415 is now on display in a grass enclosure at the Bussankan Metase no Mori, a local produce store in the town of Chikujo, Fukuoka Prefecture, joining a T-33A that has been in residence for eight years.

On June 25, 2020, the fighter had been ferried from Hyakuri to Tsuiki on what was to be its last flight. Currently one of three F-4EJKai that are not displayed on air base premises, the now engineless aircraft had departed Tsuiki by road in the early hours of June 27 this year and been installed by around noon that day. Not surprisingly, the 301st TFS’s frog tail marking was replaced by the tengu marking of the former long-time Tsuiki resident 304th TFS.

306th TFS Marks 40th Anniversary

(Photo: シオSUKE via Twitter @djm3wtog1)

(June 2021) The 306th “Golden Eagles” TFS F-15J singled out to sport a special 40th anniversary colour scheme made its debut at Komatsu last month.

The aircraft had flown for the first time in its new scheme, which is based on the squadron colours of black and yellow, on May 19.

The left-side intake carries an additional disc-shaped eagle badge, the right side a black rectangular panel bearing the names of the squadron members involved in carrying out the design and painting work.

The port-side underwing fuel tank shows a chronology in silhouettes of the five types (including the
F-4EJKai) flown by the 306th during the 40 years of its existence.
(Photo: シオSUKE via Twitter @djm3wtog1)

Happy Phantom Book Readers

(May 28, 2021) Belying the old adage about books and their covers, you can actually judge quite a lot from the cover, and obvious landscape format, of this very welcome addition to the end-of-era Phantom releases, from JWings publisher Ikaros.

If you are in the market for a publication that—as far as is possible in fewer than 100 pages—covers all the bases, you need look no further.

Featuring the work of high-flying aviation (and low-flying wildlife) photographer Kōji Nakano, this 2,000-yen softback has been carefully and lovingly crafted. In comparison, having taken the description “photo collection” far too literally, the heavyweight 3,000-yen Bunrindo offering (mentioned at the end of the May 21 entry) seems to have been thrown together all the more.

Including an Ikaros in-house designer and another from a Tokyo-based design company called FROG, presumably not connected with the 301st Sqn, the all-women editing and design team responsible for the overall look are to be congratulated. Not for them the staid, even lazy approach of certain other publishers.

(Photo: JASDF Gifu AB via Twitter @JASDF_GIFUAB)

Helping this contender to punch way above its weight, the series of photos that appeared under the same title in JWings magazine has been expanded to include examples flown until recently by European air arms that really help to do the subject justice. There are just two double-page spreads, but one is stunningly VistaVision w-i-d-e, and the other is a worm’s eye view cunningly taken at dusk, so efforts have been made to minimize any obvious join.

Although the Phantom was in JASDF service for 50 years, only a handful of photos from before the 2000s are included. In common with the substandard Bunrindo effort, they had to draw the line somewhere, but here they extend to pages devoted to images of JASDF and U.S. examples from the photographer/author’s film camera era in the 1980s and 90s.

In all, the contents comprise 43 two-page photo essays, with one of those pages taken up by an uncluttered image with real impact. We can easily forgive the production team the Happy Phatom (sic) Day buried in the introduction.

In summary, this book is worth every one of those 2,000 yen.

Now preserved at Miho AB, Phantom 439 forms the subject of one of the two-page
essays in
Happy Phantom Days. (Photo: Japan Ministry of Defense/JASDF)

Phantoms Dogfight Gremlins

(May 18, 2021) Mentioned in dispatches on the Magazines/Books page of this website for its informative, A4-sized softback photo collections on SDF topics, Japanese publisher Hobby Japan has made a surprising move into oversized, “coffee table” hardback books. Two lavish tomes have recently been released in quick succession.

A bilingual title designed to mark the retirement of the F-4EJ Phantom from JASDF service, Phorever (above) exclusively features the stunning photography that is the stock-in trade of Katsuhiko Tokunaga.

An interesting, in places humorous “puts you in the cockpit” introduction was provided by the diminutive former 306th Squadron CO Shinichirō Toda, whose own public profile was raised by the Ikaros release of his memoirs last year. The main body text was contributed by the Vietnam War veteran Richard A. “Ski” Pawloski, who served with F-4B Phantom-equipped U.S. Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 323 Death Rattlers.

(Photo: JASDF Public Affairs Office via Twitter @JASDF_PAO)

[At this point it should be added that J-HangarSpace neither purchased its own nor received a review copy of Phorever. In acting as a kind of mail order intermediary, a copy briefly passed through the “hangar” on its way to its rightful owner in the UK.]

Still wearing its 1995 TAC Meet markings, this F-4EJ was the mount of then Lt. Col.
Shinichirō “Tiger” Toda when he commanded the 306th Sqn at Komatsu. Seen here
on a visit to Atsugi in June that year, possibly the man himself can be seen relaxing
under the aircraft. Sad to relate, two 8th Sqn crew members were to lose their
lives in this aircraft over the Pacific Ocean on October 9, 1998.

(Photo: GHOST via Twitter @boy_816)

Anyway, so far so good, and you would think that these elements alone would justify the 7,000 yen price tag. Sadly, as is so often the case, in J-HangarSpace’s opinion the production team have rendered all these contributors, and particularly any non-Japanese purchaser, a huge disservice.

Quite what the production workflow entailed is anybody’s guess, but the quality of the English text has been lowered by the obvious tinkering of Japanese “editors” of English. One or two of the “English” sentences are convoluted and so randomly stuffed with dubious terminology that they make little sense.

It would also appear that nobody qualified was asked to proofread the text. The JADSF (sic) smack dab in the middle of the opening paragraph of the introduction really jumps out at you, as does the line in which Pawloski mentions the Phantom’s use in “hunting Bear”, only for the all-important B to be laughably lowercased. Oh, and nobody happened to notice that a section of the text in the chapter on the Air Development and Test Wing (AD&TW) is repeated in that on the 302nd Squadron. This isn’t rocket science, Werner!

The use of the word gremlins in the title of this review is not really accurate. We all make mistakes, or ‘even monkeys fall from trees’ as the Japanese would say, and errors have an unerring habit of creeping into even the most closely checked of texts. (The beauty of websites is that they enable you to even belatedly cover your tracks. Best I spllcheck all this before uploading.)

What we seem to have here is systemic incompetence with regard to or at best a flagrant disregard for English content, the sole purpose of which would appear to be decorative space-filler. I often wonder what would happen if so little attention were insultingly paid to the Japanese texts. If the tables were turned, and this reviewer were including Japanese text that people would be paying good money to read, he’d make doubly sure it was accurate and have it checked.

And then there are the photographs. Despite the larger format pages, too many images are completely ruined by spreading them across double-page spreads, so that several thousand pixels simply fall into the “crevasse”. The images might look fantastic on the layout computer screen, but do these people never pause to think what the finished product might look like?

The Hobby Japan designers are by no means alone in this long-entrenched shortcoming. Major publishing company Kodansha brought out an equally expensive book that focused on SDF personnel to coincide with the service’s 60th anniversary back in 2014. A photographer went to great lengths to set up a shot from a ladder, looking centrally along the fuselage from above the nose of an F-2, with squadron members positioned along its wings. You can imagine how stupid that wasted effort looked on the printed pages.

The other Hobby Japan release, entitled X Mitō no Enberōpu (one possible translation: X Envelopes Unpushed; priced at around 8,000 yen), is another collaboration with Tokunaga, this time marking the half century since the establishment of the JASDF Test Pilot Course. One of the less dynamic photos shows a comparatively distant AD&TW T-4, cavorting high above the clouds, brutally severed by a direct hit from the between-page gutter.

Today happens to be the day when the special Phantom publication from Kōkū Fan publisher Bunrindo (cover shown above) hits the streets. The publisher’s blog has been trumpeting how this will include no less than 76 of the dreaded mihiraki (double-page spreads). Some time ago, J-HangarSpace was in touch with the monthly magazine editor, whom he has met a couple of times, and who kindly passed on politely couched comments and suggestions to the book/mook publishing team, apparently to no avail.

The only text is about half a page from the photographer and, at the back, numbered thumbnails giving information on the date/location and camera equipment. Emphasizing what a wasted opportunity this book represents, the latter are not user-friendly, as even page numbering was thought superfluous. Such was the low level of production values inflicted on the book.

Snapshots in the Career of Phantom 315

Seen here (link) at Komatsu in April 1985, above at a misty Nyutabaru in
October 2000, and
(below) saying goodbye at Hyakuri in December 2019.
(Photos: J-HangarSpace)

The cover of the June 2021 issue of Kōkū Fan magazine. Now that’s
what you call a cool layout—there’s a fold-out inside, too.

Air Park Update

Six of the eight old-timers that have been evicted from JASDF Air Park last month to
make way for new exhibits; the H-19C and S-62J were parked out of shot.

(Photo [Mar. 21, 2021]: Area_Kilo via Twitter @area_kilo)

(April 8, 2021) Following on from the January 2021 story, it has indeed been a case of “all change” at JASDF Air Park, which re-opened after alterations and refurbishment on April 1. (Not surprisingly, the Air Park website homepage [link] requests everyone from outside Shizuoka Prefecture to kindly refrain from visiting at the present time.)

It does appear that the eight old-timers evicted to make way for new exhibits have been granted a reprieve, at least for the time being. According to notices on the Air Park homepage and Twitter account, we can apparently rest assured that these currently homeless veterans will be “carefully stored in an on-base hangar [across the way at Hamamatsu AB] until they are ready to be placed back on display.” J-HangarSpace had been expecting to start a “Save the Vampire” campaign, complete with T-shirts . . .

One of the new residents, surrounded by that fencing. (Photo: Area_Kilo via Twitter @area_kilo)

The last-built Phantom and Blue Impulse T-4 are now in residence, the latter in a “corner” devoted to the aerobatic team, which is often comically referred to as an “acrobatic” team here. Telling the stories of the postwar development of the Japanese aviation industry and the early training syllabus has given way to showing the progressions of front-line aircraft, from the F-86F to the F-4EJKai, and of the three generations of Blue Impulse team mounts. (What will they be flying next?)

Apparently, the possibility of expanding the Air Park facility by the building of a second exhibition hangar is being examined. Could this be done in time for the 70th anniversary in 2024, by which time a C-1 might have been earmarked? Air Park will hopefully be keeping everyone informed via its website and Twitter account (link).

Postscript  In late March 2021, the outside area contained the B-65, T-1A, T-28B and T-33A plus the already resident T-33A 71-5254, so presumably on-base hangar space had already been found for the Vampire, H-19 and S-62. A distant photo taken in August 2023 showed only the B-65 and the two T-33As present.

JCG Order and Recent New Arrivals

The aircraft shown in the photo that accompanies the latest press release, JA696A was ordered in
April 2018. The JCG’s 10th H225 Super Puma,
Aowashi (Blue Eagle) arrived in February 2021
and has since been sighted at Kagoshima Air Station.
(Photo: Airbus Helicopters)

(March 30, 2021) Airbus Helicopters today announced another repeat order from the Japan Coast Guard for two H225 helicopters.

Having received its first two pairs of the previous AS332L-1 version in 1992 and 1997, the JCG received its 10th H225 Super Puma last month. Including the two AS332L-1s still in service, the JCG will have 17 in service when these new aircraft are delivered, cementing its place as the largest operator of the type in Japan. As ever, according to the press release, these new aircraft will be used for territorial coastal operations, security enforcement and disaster relief missions.

The latest fixed-wing addition to the JCG fleet was officially commissioned at a ceremony held Sendai Air Station on February 22, 2021. Named Aobazuku (Brown Hawk-Owl), Raytheon (Beech) 350 JA871B, which was ferried from the United States last November, has a special mission. Fitted with laser equipment, the aircraft will be used to measure the depth particularly of coastal waters and assist in producing maps of the seabed. Following a period of equipment testing and crew training, operations are scheduled to begin in earnest in June this year.

The JCG’s newest fixed-wing recruit, the Beech 350 laser-mapping survey aircraft Aobazuku’s name
was as usual selected following suggestions invited from members of the public where the aircraft
will be based, in this case Sendai. Literally meaning green foliage,
aoba happens to be the name
of a castle in Miyagi Prefecture, but
aobazuku is the name of an Asian species of owl,
a creature that searches for prey with laser-like precision.

(Photo: Japan Coast Guard/2nd Region HQ)

JASDF Double Retirement Day

The last three F-4EJs break formation prior to entering the circuit for landing at
Gifu AB, March 17, 2021.
(Photo: ふにゃふにゃvia Twitter @hunyahunya_502)

YS-11FC 151 taxies out under its own steam for the last time. A notice was placed in the cockpit side
window to notify the outside world that this would be the aircraft’s last flight.
(Photo: mania via Twitter @mania1515)

(March 17, 2021) In an unprecedented move, the JASDF today retired two aircraft types in a single day.

The main event was that involving the three remaining F-4EJ Phantoms at the Air Development & Test Wing at Gifu AB. Two other aircraft from the unit having made their farewells in preceding days—including 07-8429, which had been flown to Tsuiki on March 15—the trio performed a formation flypast before landing and taxying under the traditional arcs of water provided by base fire tenders.

This event represented the culmination of the five decades of aircraft development and operations that have passed since the star of the show, the very first F-4EJ 17-8301, took to the skies on its maiden flight above the McDonnell-Douglas factory in St. Louis. We await news of where this historic aircraft will be preserved.

A video that takes in the pre-flight preparations and the events on the day has been uploaded to YouTube by the Gifu Shimbun newspaper (link), and this uploaded by the Asahi Shimbun in December 2020 (link) includes brief in-flight glimpses inside the cockpit.

(Photo [Gifu AB, Mar. 17, 2021]: エクシャンvia Twitter @CN_x10)

And J79s will sound no more.
(Photo [Gifu AB, Mar. 17, 2021]: JASDF Gifu Provincial Cooperation Office via Twitter @gifupco)

Meanwhile, over at Iruma AB in Saitama Prefecture, the sound of Rolls-Royce Dart turboprops has become a thing of the past following the last flight of the resident Flight Check Group’s YS-11FC 52-1511. Built as a standard YS-11P transport, this aircraft had made its first flight 56 years ago, on February 15, 1965, and been converted and returned to service in the flight check role in 1971.

YS-11FC 151’s career spanned 56 years.
(Photo [Iruma AB, Mar. 17, 2021]: みけはなこ[Mikehanako] via Twitter @7350314Rider)

Camera, Cash, ID, Water . . . Ticket?

There’s money in them thar crowds. The scene on the traditional Culture Day air show at Iruma,
November 3, 2018, where the presence of the Blue Impulse team helped to attract 190,000 visitors.

(Photo: JASDF Iruma via Twitter @jasdf_iruma)

(March 1, 2021) J-HangarSpace recently had cause to check the content of the Overview of FY2021 Budget Request on the Japan Ministry of Defense website. In doing so, the following newly-added text was chanced upon, hidden away on page 40 under Chapter VIII Streamlining Initiatives, Section 7. Study on Securing Income:

Secure income through measures such as . . . charging for the Air Base Festivals and part of the JGSDF Fuji Fire Power Exercise.

At some stage down the line, it appears that a ticket might have to be added to the air show pre-departure checklist.

Up to now, these events have been seen as promotional and recruitment tools, where taxpayers can gain more of an idea as to how the billions of yen are being spent. This development would bring a whole new meaning to the word crowdfunding.

It would be interesting to see what sort of payment systems and pricing tariffs are being considered for introduction in Japan. Presumably payment on the day would be available as well as at a discount in advance through convenience stores. For those events where most spectators are brought to the airfield by bus, the bus operators could sell combined transport/entrance tickets. There would also have to be some system of refunds/credits, should an event have to be cancelled at the last minute.

A preview of the “entrance-fee effect” drop in attendance? The southern end of the apron/spectator
corral at Iruma soon after opening for the 2019 event.

(Photo: JASDF Iruma via Twitter @jasdf_iruma)

Although not as bad as had been forecast, the weather was a major factor in a mere 125,000 people visiting Iruma in 2019 (photo above). The lowest attendance since the 170,000 of 2011, the year of the Great East Japan Earthquake when the Japanese were asked to exercise “self-restraint”, this figure is still higher in comparison with regional events held at less easily accessible air bases. In 2015, Komatsu recorded 147,000, its highest attendance in 10 years, but when not disrupted by an approaching typhoon 125,000 is more the norm.

Being somewhat out of touch with air shows outside Japan, J-HangarSpace was glad to see that military base air shows in the United States remain free, and that venues such as MCAS Miramar offer premium seating in a grandstand. In the UK, however, a ticket to last year’s ultimately cancelled RAF Cosford Air Show, which is an advanced purchase only event that attracts around 50,000 people, was pitched at £32 (the equivalent of nearly 5,000 yen) with accompanied under 16s free.

It seems that, for now at least, such plans in Japan are up in the air.

Short-lived SAR Catalina Careers

One of the two JMSDF PBY-6As sits on the ramp at U.S. NAF Oppama in Kanagawa Prefecture in
May 1956. Supported by 26 squadron personnel, both aircraft had participated in night training
exercises under U.S. guidance. Although at that time based at Kanoya, the aircraft is carrying
the tail code of the Omura Kōkūtai that officially formed in December that year. 

(Photo from The World’s Aircraft July 1956 issue, used with permission of Hobun Shorin Co., Ltd.)

(February 2021) As a follow-up to the earlier JRF story, in February and May 1956 the JMSDF was also donated a pair of used PBY-6A Catalinas, which the service briefly used to initiate its long history of fixed-wing search and rescue (SAR) operations.

Operated from Kanoya for the first year and then, following an overhaul, from Omura for the period 1957 to 1960, their career was also cut short by the arrival of the UF-2s.

Although around that time U.S. Air Force OA-10A SAR versions of the Catalina were being painted
white overall, the JMSDF opted for overall Light Gull Gray schemes for its PBYs to
match the JRFs in 1958.
(Photo: JMSDF via Wikimedia Commons)

One aircraft, 5881, was actually decommissioned in December 1959, and 5882 was to suffer the ignominy of overrunning the runway at Osaka International Airport, on June 6, 1960, before finally being struck off charge in November that year.

Surprisingly, one of another great series of photos on the hikokikumo.net site (link) shows that at least one of the aircraft was still armed with its nose-mounted machine guns when delivered. The last two photos show 5882 seemingly hiding its head in shame at Shin Meiwa’s Osaka-Itami facility in June 1960, following that month’s runway overrun.

PBY-6A 5881 taxies away from NAF Oppama during the May 1956 training visit. Of note are two of
the four rocket-assisted takeoff
(RATO) bottles mounted on the forward fuselage sides. These could
be used to facilitate takeoffs in bad weather and high swell conditions as well as in an emergency.

(Photo from The World’s Aircraft July 1956 issue, used with permission of Hobun Shorin Co., Ltd.)

(Photo published in Dec. 1958 issue of Aireview, used by kind permission of SequireySha K.K.)

Continuing the Grumman Bird Theme

Detail from an ad for Nitto Aviation from April 1960 issue of Aireview

(February 2021) The April 1960 issue of Aireview also contained information on and photos of the JMSDF JRF-5s. Although the images were too small and grainy to be of any use here, the issue did include the above photo of a Nitto Aviation Grumman Mallard.

Proclaiming flights on Safe and Comfortable, State-of-the-art Amphibious Aircraft!!, the photo was placed above a network map that showed return services between the airline’s Osaka hub and Niihama (Ehime Prefecture) and Tokushima on Shikoku as well as Shirahama, Wakayama Prefecture. A through service to Nagoya via Kushimoto, also in Wakayama Prefecture, was at that time being planned.

Providing a link with the previous story, this very aircraft (JA5057) was also used by Shin Meiwa, for testing the chines designed to suppress spray and thus prevent engine and/or propeller damage, before eventually being sold to a Canadian company. (Two photos of the aircraft during those tests appear on page 21 of Bunrindo’s Famous Airplanes of the World No. 139 on the PS-1.)

Nitto Aviation operated a total of five Mallards but, tragically belying the ad’s catch copy, was to suffer the misfortune of losing JA5067 in a fatal crash directly after takeoff from Osaka in February 1964. The company itself was one of the companies that merged to form Japan Domestic Airlines, the forerunner of Japan Air System, in April 1964, two months after the accident.

Migratory (and Transformed) Japan Geese

One of the four JRF-5s operated by the JMSDF up until 1961, 9013 subsequently underwent
something of a transformation.
(Photo [undated, part of panel display exhibited at
JMSDF Iwakuni]: ふにに [Hunini] via Twitter @hunini180212)

(February 2021) One final surprise from having looked into the whereabouts of former JMSDF aircraft was the discovery that two of the four Grumman JRF Goose amphibians are still alive and well and living in the United States.

A total of 10 of this type had been among the first aircraft donated (not just for Thanksgiving) to the nascent air arm from U.S. Navy stocks, in their case in 1955. Only the four entered service, and the remainder were used for spares. Crew training was carried out on the first two aircraft at the then U.S. Naval Air Facility Oppama, formerly the IJN’s Yokosuka seaplane base, during November 1955. The aircraft were then officially handed over on December 10 that year and operated from the newly prepared facilities at Omura airbase, which had only recently been returned to Japanese control.

Some insight into the aircraft’s limitations can be gleaned from a base visit report that was published in the December 1958 issue of Aireview. The crews mentioned that the JRF’s diminutive size meant that operations could not be conducted in rough sea conditions as the aircraft was prone to being swamped, and that the lightness of its controls did not help either. An Albatross was even then being touted as the sturdier, more capable replacement of choice.

(Photo published in May 1957 issue of Aireview, used by kind permission of SequireySha K.K.)

A pair of JRF-5s have their engines warmed up for the benefit of the camera on the
occasion of the visit by an
Aireview reporter in 1958.
(Photo published in Dec. 1958 issue of Aireview, used by kind permission of SequireySha K.K.)

Having originally been delivered to the U.S. Navy in 1944, two (JRF-5s 9011 and 9014) ended up being decommissioned at the end of March 1961, shortly before the arrival of the first of their UF-2 Albatross replacements, and were eventually “cooked” in Japan.

Previously used by Columbus University and the U.S. Navy for testing anti-submarine warfare
detection systems, 9012 was the other of the two JRF-5s that avoided ending its
career with the JMSDF.
(Photo: JMSDF via Wikimedia Commons)

Having itself been decommissioned at its Omura base at the end of November 1961, 1942-vintage JRF-5 9012, which some sources have stated was a JRF-4, passed to U.S. Army Depot Command management and was allocated a U.S. civil registration as early as April 1964. The aircraft was registered N291VW to purchaser Tom Danaher, the owner of an automotive company in Wichita, Kansas, who had travelled to Japan to inspect his prize. Danaher had retained ownership of the aircraft after carrying out its conversion to civil use in 1978, but N291VW changed hands in May 2015, 60 years after its entry into JMSDF service, and now calls California its home. The aircraft was sighted being worked on in a hangar at Nut Tree Airport in Vacaville in October 2015 (link).

Having preceded 9012 into retirement by seven months in April 1961, 9013 served time as an instructional airframe at Shimofusa AB in Chiba Prefecture and then as an increasingly despondent-looking gate guard that was feeling the call of the wild; these photos show the aircraft at Shimofusa in 1963 (link) and 1965 (link). Its by then picked-over carcass, from which the wings had been removed and partially plucked, was still under U.S. Army Depot Command management in 1968. Fortunately help was on its way, and according to flyingboatforum.com the aircraft was sold to the very same Tom Danaher, who had visited Japan again in September 1968, and arrived back in the United States in 1969. Danaher had paid around $5,000 but sold the airframe to McKinnon Enterprises for $15,000 in August the following year.

Thus it came to pass that 9013 was rebuilt and reflown for the first time in March 1970 as one of only two full, PT6A-powered McKinnon G-21G Turbo-Goose conversions. Currently based in Alaska, the aircraft’s ownership has changed four times since then.

Although still with the Omura Kōkūtai, JRF-5 9013 was utilized for a test programme in late 1956.
The nose of the aircraft was adorned with calibration markings after having been fitted with chines
low on either side of its forward fuselage that were designed to suppress spray. Developments of
the basic design have been adopted for the Shin Meiwa/ShinMaywa family of aircraft, from the
PS-1 to the US-2.
(Photo: From March 1957 issue of The World’s Aircraft, used with
permission of Hobun Shorin Co., Ltd.)

JMSDF JRF-5 9013 lives on as the McKinnon G-21G Turbo-Goose N70AL, which has appeared at
the EAA AirVenture event at Oshkosh, Wisconsin, on a number of occasions.

(Photo: [at Oshkosh, July 2012] RuthAS via Wikimedia Commons)

The hikokikumo.net site features a series of great photos of all four aircraft (link). Those of 9011 and 9012 feature sequences of their arrivals at the Shin Meiwa (now ShinMaywa) Konan plant in Kobe circa 1955-56; 9012 is also shown derelict, purportedly at the same location, in June 1964.

(Photo published in May 1957 issue of Aireview, used by kind permission of SequireySha K.K.)

All taken at Omura base, the operational photos of 9013—which include that from Aireview shown above—also show the new overall U.S. Navy Light Gull Gray colour scheme that was adopted in place of the dark navy blue at some stage in 1958. The arrow is indicating the two holes that served to release the water trapped behind the step in the hull after takeoff. The last two photos show the Goose 9013 at Shimofusa in the summer of 1963 and August 1965, before the aircraft was plucked from obscurity.

Taken in April 1960, the photos of 9014 primarily show the aircraft during training at Takeshiki, a location formerly used by the IJN that now lies in the Mitsushimacho district of the city of Tsushima, Nagasaki Prefecture. The last four images were also taken at Shin Meiwa’s Konan plant circa 1960; note the JMSDF PBY-6A partly visible in the background of the first photo.

In a similar form to the abovementioned sequence of website photos, 9013 is shown from having just
landed to climbing the slipway at Omura during the visit by an Aireview reporter in October 1958.
(Photos published in Dec.1958 issue of Aireview, used by kind permission of SequireySha K.K.)

Oita Airport, 1969: All-Metal Props

Two ex-JMSDF SNJ-5s await orders prior to their final mission, for which they would not
even be leaving the ground under their own power.
(Photo [Feb. 1969]: Takao Kadokami)

(February 2021) In late 1968 and early 1969, J-HangarSpace contributor Takao Kadokami witnessed the then mysterious transformation of around nine former JASDF T-6Gs and JMSDF SNJs that had been gathered at Oita Airport.

These were among those that were to enjoy all too brief film careers as (literally) props for the 1970 20th Century Fox film of the attack on Pearl Harbor, Tora! Tora! Tora!

Several of the aircraft were already present in a hangar at Oita Airport in November 1968.
Seen in the background in the photo below, SNJ-5 6212 was given the U.S. civil
registration N6539, but this was cancelled in June 1969.

(Photos: Takao Kadokami)

Meanwhile, another six JASDF T-6Gs were being rebuilt as Kate torpedo bomber replicas by C. Itoh & Company at Tokyo’s Chofu Airport. The film company cast the net far and wide for other T-6s in the United States and even acquired some Harvards from Royal Canadian AF surplus stocks.

The aviation-related scenes shot in Japan were filmed on the beach at Ashiya AB in Fukuoka Prefecture, where a full-scale set of three quarters of the aircraft carrier Akagi’s flight deck had been constructed. A huddle of 12 full-size aircraft sufficed for the scenes set on the hangar deck.

In the case of the Japanese contingent, passing their auditions as extras was apparently not enough to gain them N-registration “green card” entry into the United States.

Another view of the T-6s nervously awaiting their auditions, Oita Airport, Nov. 17, 1968.
(Photo: Takao Kadokami)

(Photo [Oita Airport, Feb. 1969]: Takao Kadokami)

For the record, the known participants at Oita were: JASDF T-6Gs 52-0058, 51-0117, 52-0137, 72-0159; JMSDF SNJ-5s 6163, 6166, 6176 and 6212 as well as SNJ-6 6183.

Those worked on at Chofu were: 72-0151 (N6522), 72-0158 (N?), 72-0159 (N6524), 72-0164 (N6526), 72-0165 (N6529) and 72-0168 (N6520).

The flyable “stars” of the film were operated from Wheeler Field, Hawaii. Painstakingly and highly modified Vultee BT-13 Valiants passed for Val dive bombers, and elongated T-6 front fuselages had been mated with BT-13 rear fuselages for the Kate torpedo bombers. More information on the making of the film can be found at this specialist website (link).

As an end aside, eight of the replicas built for the film still equip Team Tora! Tora! Tora!, which since 1972 has been recreating the attack at air events throughout the United States.

One of the Canadian-built Harvards that masqueraded as a Kate for Tora! Tora! Tora!, N2047
still sees “action” as part of the Commemorative Air Force. In a perfect example of
type casting, the aircraft reprised the role for the 2001 release,
Pearl Harbor.
(Photo [EAA AirVenture, Oshkosh, July 2012]: Paul Nelhams via Wikimedia Commons)

T-34 on Steroids: The Oldest Ex-JGSDF Aircraft Still Flying

Then still on active service, a JGSDF Fuji LM-1 at the international aerospace show that was held
at Iruma AB in October 1973. One of those to enjoy a second career in private U.S. ownership
(as N608FU), this same aircraft was photographed taxying at the Oshkosh EAA AirVenture
event in July 2018
 (link). (Photo: Takao Kadokami)

(January 21, 2021) A report to follow on from that on the first, now 50-year-old JASDF Phantom. While updating the JGSDF Where Are They Now? section, J-HangarSpace decided to delve deeper into the remaining U.S.-registered examples of that “T-34 on steroids,” the Fuji LM-1/LM-2.

A four-seat liaison aircraft that shared a high commonality of parts with the T-34, the prototype of this homegrown development of the T-34 Mentor first flew on June 7, 1955. Registered JA3098 and given the name Nikko—literally meaning ‘sunlight’ but also the name of a famous place in Tochigi Prefecture, where the Fuji factory is located—the aircraft ended up being used as an instructional airframe at Nakanippon Aviation College in Seki, Gifu Prefecture, long after its registration was cancelled in 1970. There is some confusion surrounding the start of the aircraft’s time in private ownership in the United States as N6344Z, possibly from 1998, but that particular LM-1 registration was cancelled in February 2018.

Having flown the first production LM-1 on September 8, 1956, Fuji (today SUBARU) went on to build 27 LM-1s, which were delivered in double-quick time from October 2, 1956 to September 1957; the last remained in service until 1983. Although not generally adopted, the type’s official name was Harukaze (Spring Breeze). Although built under licence on the basis of the Beech-Fuji T-34 agreement, they had been classed as an offshore procurement and provided by U.S. foreign military grants and thus began to be returned to the United States in the 1970s. In some cases, however, this apparently involved only a paper exercise and the aircraft in question was scrapped in Japan. Acquired by private U.S. owners starting in 1983, up to eight are reportedly still in existence, of which possibly five are airworthy. (See the JGSDF Where Are They Now? page for more details.)

A decade after its first flight, the prototype had long since set the trend for military-style markings on civilian-owned examples of this type of aircraft, as seen in this photo taken at Tokyo’s Haneda Airport circa 1967 (link).

Taken at Tsuiki AB in November 1971, the above photo shows an LM-2, the designation given to the 
three LM-1s that were fitted with an uprated engine driving a three-bladed prop. All three LM-2s
ended up on the U.S. civil register, in 21051’s case as N2105N. The date stamp visible on the
original of the image below tells us that the photo of N2105N was taken on July 30, 1991, 
which coincides with that year’s Oshkosh show. This aircraft is another of up to
eight LMs believed to be still in existence.

(Photos: [top] Takao Kadokami; [above] San Diego Air & Space Museum via Wikimedia Commons)

Note: Taking its cue from the end of the JASDF Phantom era, J-HangarSpace will henceforward be endeavouring to focus more on SDF history topics than on current events.

Air Park Shakeup Scheduled

(January 2021) Some of the luckier ex-SDF aircraft do go on to enjoy a cosseted, temperature-controlled existence in museums. It appears, however, that no less than eight of the long-term residents at the JASDF Air Park at Hamamatsu AB are set to be evicted during the course of 2021.

The main exhibition hall has remained essentially unchanged from the day of its opening in April 1999. Under recently announced plans for a full interior refurbishment, three new exhibits will be brought in under that one roof: the recently arrived Phantom that had been the last to enter JASDF service; an ex-Blue Impulse T-4; and the X-2 technology demonstrator that was transported over from storage at Gifu AB last year.

Postscript It turned out that the X-2 was merely in transit en route to a research facility in Chiba Prefecture.

The provisional, post-renewal layout of aircraft in the main exhibition hall. The
top row comprises the F-86F, T-2 and new addition T-4 to form a Blue Impulse
formation, the middle row the successsive front-line fighters,
from the Sabre to the Phantom.
(JASDF Air Park)

The current plan will see the current four front-line aircraft and the T-2 as well as the MU-2S and KV-107 air rescue duo remain in the main exhibition hall. The eight less fortunate, older (and less crowd-pulling) training types and helicopters are to be banished and ignominiously squeezed onto the site of the former base dump. Still on the south side, this is located next to the Hamamatsu Air Rescue Squadron apron and close to the main gate, a distance away from the Air Park facility itself.

Then and now photos provide a comparison of the main exhibition hall in September 2000 (above),
the year after Air Park had opened, and circa December 2019. The training aircraft currently in
front of the huge window, which can pose problems for photography, are due to make way for
the MU-2S and KV-107. Hopefully, the opportunity will be taken to remove the hideous,
crowd control-like railings from around the aircraft.

(Photos: [top] J-HangarSpace; [above, uploaded Dec. 2019]
JASDF Air Park via Twitter @jasdf_airpark)

More than 20 years after this photo was taken, the unique Vampire T.55 (rear) and
T-28 are among the aircraft soon to be moving to exposed pastures almost new.

Recognition test. The planned arrangement of the huddle of valuable aviation assets destined for the
hardstanding that was previously the base dump and that, ominously, is close to the
current aircraft disposal area.
(JASDF Air Park)

At present unaffected by the upheaval and doing its best to keep a low profile, the F-104J
disguised as a UF-104J looks set to continue its splendid isolation of 20 years.

50th Anniversary of Phantom ’301’s First Flight

(January 15, 2021) The above photo shows the first F-4EJ Phantom II at the McDonnell Douglas plant in St. Louis, Missouri, in 1971. The photo was supplied by the company to this writer for inclusion in a special feature that appeared in the May 1978 issue of the now defunct UK magazine, Air Pictorial, to coincide with the delivery of the 5,000th Phantom.

A mere 50 years ago today (January 14, St. Louis time), that first F-4EJ Phantom II made its maiden flight.

The type having just passed into front-line squadron history, this historic aircraft is one of a handful still in operational service with the Air Development & Test Wing at Gifu AB. Sadly, their days are numbered, as they too are planned to be withdrawn from use in the coming weeks.

Its then state-of-the-art capabilities kicked up some political dust by its mere arrival, accompanied by the second aircraft, in July 1971. In an apt book-end to its career, the aircraft has recently been engaged in the monthly missions involving the carrying of a dust collector pod used to detect radioactive particles.

Hopefully, at some point today ’301 was given the day off and just taken up for a congratulatory anniversary spin.

(Photo [Dec. 2020]: らいあん@失業中 via Twitter @ryanan_j79)

“Frog Squadron” Leaps into Action at Misawa

(Photo: JASDF Misawa via Twitter @jasdf_misawa)

(Dec. 15, 2020) No sooner had 301st TFS Phantom operations been wound up at Hyakuri than the unit’s next chapter on the F-35A opened at Misawa.

The base personnel increased by 180 as the 301st set up shop and reformed on the same day that other personnel who had stayed behind at Hyakuri bade a final farewell to the Phantom.

The sister unit 302nd TFS is operating its full complement of 21 F-35As, and plans call for the 301st to initially work up on half that number and be at full strength by 2024.

Aggressor Squadron Shows off Its Green Credentials

(Photo [Nov. 2020]: JASDF/Komatsu AB via Twitter @JasdfKomatsu)

(November 2020) Following soon after the previous unveiling (see August 28, 2020), the latest colour scheme chosen by the Tactical Fighter Training Group features a two-tone green variation of the “lionfish” design. See the entry for 72-8090 on the page of this website devoted to this unit for more photos and information.

(Photo [Jan. 2021]: タッチ via Twitter @303fighting)

Fully-fledged Ospreys Prepare to Venture from Nest

One of the first pair of V-22Bs delivered to the Transport Helicopter Group at Kisarazu
prepares for takeoff on November 6, 2020, the day hovering trials commenced within
the base perimeter.
(Photo: 1st Helicopter Brigade, JGSDF via Twitter @1st_helb)

(November 6, 2020) Having been ferried to Kisarazu from Iwakuni, Yamaguchi Prefecture, in July 2020 (see Bulletin Board for May 8, 2020), the first pair of V-22B Osprey tiltrotors then underwent thorough maintenance checks.

It was just today, nearly four months later, that the Transport Helicopter Group undertook hovering trials, the first tentative steps on the way to the aircraft becoming fully operational from their home base. Flights further afield were being scheduled for the following week.

Over the next five years, these aircraft and the 15 to follow are likely to become as familiar a sight over the Tokyo area as the five U.S. Air Force CV-22s based at Yokota AB. In 2025, however, plans call for the entire Osprey fleet to be relocated to a new base in Saga Prefecture, from where they will provide airlift capability for the Amphibious Rapid Deployment Brigade based in neighbouring Nagasaki Prefecture.

Changing the Guard

(Photo: JASDF Komatsu AB via Twitter @JasdfKomatsu)

(October 2020) As the remaining Phantoms enter their last six months of service at Hyakuri, Komatsu has been busy preparing the example that took up residency as a gate guardian earlier this month (link).

It was back in June that F-4EJKai ’404 was seen with the tail markings of the 302nd TFS, its last operator, blanked out. In recognition of the type’s service at the base, which spanned the years from 1976 to 1997, the aircraft now bears the markings previously worn by 6th Air Wing Phantoms, the 303rd TFS marking on the left side of its tail and that of the 306th TFS on the right.

An eagle-eyed photographer noted through the late June heat haze that ’404, its flying days over, 
was sporting non-matching tail markings (306th TFS above, 303rd TFS below).
The reason has now been revealed.

(Photos: yosakoiwatch via Twitter @yosakoiwatch)

Other photos from the day of the aircraft’s placement at Komatsu’s main gate can be found on the JASDF Where Are They Now? and Base Histories pages.

RC-2 Joins Ranks, EC-2 in Works

(Photo: JASDF Public Affairs Office via Twitter @JASDF_PAO)

(October 1, 2020) The C-2 converted for the electronic intelligence (ELINT) role in 2018 was today handed over to the JASDF’s Electronic Tactics Group at a ceremony held at its new home, Iruma AB in Saitama Prefecture.

Having originally been built as the second prototype XC-2, the aircraft had made its first flight on January 27, 2011. After the addition of a dome on the upper part of the fuselage, just aft of the cockpit, large blisters aft of the wing, and a fairing atop its tail, the aircraft first flew in signals-gathering guise on February 8, 2018. Having in the meantime been flown from Gifu by the Air Development & Test Wing, what is now designated the RC-2 will initially be used for crew training. (The aircraft is seen here at Iruma on October 5 [link].)

Likewise lacking unit tail markings, the Electric Intelligence Squadron’s four YS-11EBs have an average age of more than 50 years; one is seen here (link) at Iruma in August.

The 2021 defense budget requests, which were released today, include funding for the procurement of information-gathering equipment to be mounted on “radio wave information gathering aircraft (RC-2)” and thus an additional conversion is on the cards. Although the enhancement of the JASDF’s electronic warfare capabilities is an ongoing policy, it remains to be seen whether the YS-11EBs will be replaced on a one-for-one basis.

The 2020 Defense of Japan white paper contains a conceptual image of a C-2 “stand-off electronic warfare” system featuring the platypus-like nose of the EC-1 and an extensively modified rear fuselage, like that of the RC-2, to accommodate jamming equipment. Plans call for the aircraft’s completion in 2026.

Squadrons Merge in Iwakuni Reorganization

The unit numbers on the tails of the JMSDF’s three UP-3Ds and four U-36As will have been
changed from 91 to 81, and the chocks in the photo below might now be collectors’ items.

(Photos [top]: JMSDF; [above] J-HangarSpace)

(October 1, 2020) In a move designed to bring operational improvements and cost savings, the Iwakuni-based 81st Fleet Air Squadron and the 91st Fleet Air Squadron were merged today into a composite unit.

Both remain under the command of the 31st Fleet Air Wing, and the 81st Fleet Air Squadron continues as the surviving entity. However, the two squadrons are now downgraded to the status of subordinate flights: the 811th Flight will operate the EP-3 and OP-3C electronic and optical intelligence-gathering aircraft; and the 812th Flight the UP-3D and U-36A in the fleet anti-aircraft defence and electronic warfare training role formerly performed by the 91st Fleet Air Squadron.

Curtain Falling on Misawa Museum Duo

(Photo [May 2014]: あおもりくま[Aomori Bear] via Wikimedia Commons)

(September 21, 2020) Published today, the November issue of Kōkū Fan magazine carries a short report from the Misawa Aviation & Science Museum.

Although the museum itself is scheduled to undergo refurbishment, the main focus of the report concerns the last chance to see the Tachikawa Ki-54 (pictured above), which in 2012 was salvaged from the lake into which it had crashed in September 1943, and a replica A6M2 Zero, both of which have been presented together for the past eight years. The last day is scheduled to be November 8, 2020, after which they will both be moved to different locations. An estimated 330,000 visitors will have seen the Zero, 240,000 of those after the Ki-54 was placed on display next to the replica of the famous fighter.

Having appeared in feature films, the replica Zero is destined for display at the Tsukuba Naval Air Group Memorial Hall in Kasama, Ibaraki Prefecture, from next year, though the form of its display and opening times have yet to be decided. It is thought that the Ki-54 will be held in more appropriate storage at Tachihi Holdings Co., Ltd. the successor company of its manufacturer that is now mainly engaged in the real estate business from its headquarters in Tachikawa, Tokyo.

(Photo [August 2017]: via Wikimedia Commons) 

Postscript J-HangarSpace contacted Shigezo Oyanagi, the director of the Misawa Aviation & Science Museum, in mid-October. The museum will be closed for refurbishment from November 9, 2020, to the end of March 2021. The plan is for part of the floor space vacated by the two exhibits to be filled by the HondaJet prototype.

23rd Fighter Training Sqn Unveils 20th Anniversary Aircraft

(Photo: JASDF Nyutabaru via Twitter @JASDF_Nyutabaru)

(September 8, 2020) The latest in a long line of JASDF units to pass a historical milestone, the 23rd Fighter Training Squadron today unveiled a special painted F-15DJ to mark two decades of operations.

For more photos of the aircraft, which had been prepared in July, see Squadron Histories Part 2.

Aggressor F-15DJ’s New Coat of Many Colours

(Photo [Komatsu, Sept. 3, 2020]: 915 via Twitter @umaibow_915)

(August 28, 2020) The recently added page on this website devoted to the Tactical Fighter Training Group (Aggressor Squadron) features the story behind the aircraft (32-8082) that until earlier this year had worn a lionfish colour scheme.

That aircraft was returned to Mitsubishi for overhaul on January 29, at which time its unique paint job was removed, as per standard procedures. Fast forward to July 31, five months later, and the aircraft was returned in the standard bland F-15DJ scheme to the unit at Komatsu.

Today, August 28, the aircraft made its first flight debut in the predominantly blue scheme shown in the above photo. What the photo does not show is that the camouflage pattern on the upper surfaces mimics that worn by Russian Air Force Sukhoi Su-35S (Flanker) fighters (link); the darker areas of the antenna fairings and the heat-resistant front sections on the tailplane have also been reproduced.

(Photo [Jan. 2021]: タッチ via Twitter @303fighting)

Saga Prefecture Strawberry Fields Forever

(Photo [Gifu, August 2020]: あおちい [Aochii] via Twitter @wakachii_NKM)

(August 2020) Its 15-man aviation unit having been formed on April 1 this year, Saga Prefecture’s BK117D-2 (JA153L) was being flight tested from Kawasaki’s Gifu facility this month.

In Japanese, the numbers of the aircraft’s registration (ichi-go-san) carry a double meaning, as Ichigosan was the name given to a new variety of strawberry (ichigo) first grown in the prefecture in 2018. The fruit farmer publicity connection obviously dictated the choice of colour scheme; apparently the ‘L’ in the registration stands for ‘Lady’.

Once fully ripened, the air unit is due to become operational from the end of March 2021. That will leave Okinawa as the only prefecture without its own dedicated municipal- or prefectural-level disaster relief helicopter unit.

Modified Makeover for Mook

(July 30, 2020) Available from today, the latest addition to Bunrindo’s Famous Aircraft of the World (FAoW) series of mooks (magazine books) to cover a Japanese subject is a three-in-one.

Over the past year or so, the publisher has been re-issuing back numbers that were long since out of print. In this case though, the kai (‘modified’) of Shiden-kai actually applies to the publication itself, which is 24 pages longer that the same-titled FAoW No. 124 that was somewhat more recently released in 2008.

(Photo [National Museum of the U.S. Air Force, Dayton, Ohio, May 2017]: Tom Meikle)

Added to the mix are colour photos of the Shiden-kai captured by the Allies in the Philippines, newly published photos of pilots and aircraft that pitted themselves against B-29 formations, and details of the mock-up of what was to have been the Shiden-kai’s successor, the Kawanishi J6K Jinpū (Squall). Modern-day coverage comes in the form of a report on the Shiden-kai replica, faithfully reproduced from original blueprints, which featured in the Bulletin Board report dated March 8, 2020.

Postcript Missing the chance of a numerical tie-in, FAoW No. 197 is on the Arado Ar 196 floatplane. This contains a four-page account, but sadly no aircraft photos, of the story surrounding the two examples operated in Japanese markings but flown by German crews in Malaya.

Police Fleet Modernization Continues

Set to be joined in Japanese police service by four more of what is now the H135, this EC135P
Sachikaze (Fortunate Wind) has been operated by the Fukuoka Prefectural Police
Air Unit since early 2014. Besides the capital’s air unit, a total of eight prefectural
police air units currently operate this type of helicopter.
(Photo [Nagoya-Komaki, September 2016]: Alec Wilson via Wikimedia Commons)

(June 24, 2020) An Airbus Helicopters press release today announced that Japan’s National Policy Agency had placed an order for an H225 Super Puma and four H135 helicopters.

Following on from the June 2017 order for one H215 and another for two H225s, this latest development marks the latest stage in the Agency’s fleet modernization programme.

According to the press release currently operating 12 H135, four H155 and six AS365 helicopters, once all these additional aircraft have been delivered, the Agency will be operating no less than 30 aircraft supplied by Airbus Helicopters.

One of four H155s currently in service, this example (named Phoenix) entered service with Hyogo
Prefectural Police in February 2015. The other three aircraft of this type are operated by
the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department (two) and Kagawa Prefecture.

(Photo: Airbus Helicopters/Chikako Hirano)

Another sign of the changing equipment times at the National Police Agency had come in February 2019 when the EH101, one of the old guard, was placed on display at the Aichi Museum of Flight after having been withdrawn from use in mid-2018. The sole S-92 in the country, which had been operated by the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department, was retired after less than nine years of service on April 28, 2020.

Number of UK Visitors to J-HangarSpace Reaches 10,000 Milestone

(Photo [Ashiya, Nov. 22, 1987]: Takao Kadokami)

(June 20, 2020) Having always been popular with visitors from the United States and Japan, which together currently account for more than 53,000 visitors, J-HangarSpace today recorded its 10,000th visitor from the third-ranked UK.

My sincere thanks to all who contribute, get in contact or just visit, in whichever country you happen to be.

(Photo taken at Ashiya, Sept. 24, 2000)

The Ospreys Have Landed (Make That Docked)

One of the first two Ospreys to arrive in Japan is gingerly offloaded from a chartered
commercial freighter at Iwakuni port, Yamaguchi Prefecture.

(Photo [May 8, 2020]: III Marine Expeditionary Force via Twitter @IIIMEF_JP)

(May 8, 2020) Today saw the arrival of the first two JGSDF V-22B Block C Ospreys, which were offloaded from a chartered commercial ro-ro ferry at Iwakuni port, Yamaguchi Prefecture.

Having officially ordered the first five (of 14) aircraft for $332.0 million in mid-2015, the first aircraft was officially handed over to the Japanese Ministry of Defense in August 2017. Their deployment, however, has been beset with delays with regard to their basing amid strong local opposition from local landowners in Saga Prefecture.

(Photo [Iwakuni port, May 8, 2020]: III Marine Expeditionary Force via Twitter @IIIMEF_JP)

On May 6, the ship had made a brief en route port call at Naha, Okinawa Prefecture, reportedly to pick up the technicians charged with making the aircraft ready for flight. Under the then state of emergency triggered by COVID-19 infections, personnel were not being allowed to enter Japan from overseas.

The two aircraft are due to relocate, under their own steam, to Kisarazu at the end of next month. The Chiba base could be where they roost for up to five years, but their permanent home as part of the Amphibious Rapid Deployment Brigade (ARDB) is still planned to be Saga airport.

Postscript Delayed four days due to heavy rain, the first Osprey arrived at Kisarazu on July 10, 2020. 

JGSDF Units Geared Up for Firefighting Season

A 1st Transport Helicopter Group Chinook in action during an operation in Yamagata Prefecture
on May 1, 2020.
(Photo: JGSDF/1st Helicopter Brigade via Twitter)

(April–May 2020) Although fortunately not even close to the scale of those that recently ravaged vast tracts of Australia, Japan does have to contend with its share of wildfires. Spring traditionally being something of a season for fires, JGSDF units have already been in action, most recently in Yamagata Prefecture.

The standard operating procedure is for municipal and/or prefectural helicopter units to deal with any incidents, with the JGSDF and if needs be JASDF available upon receipt of a request of the governor of the affected prefecture. The initial JGSDF response will be provided by the aviation squadron attached to the division or brigade that receives the request, but helicopters from regional army helicopter squadrons will be used to provide reinforcements for information gathering and firefighting. The Chinooks of the four-squadron 1st Transport Helicopter Group at Kisarazu, which comes under the command of the 1st Helicopter Brigade, form the last line of defence. On rare occasions they will be operated in conjunction with examples from the Soumagahara-based 12th Helicopter Squadron and/or JASDF Chinooks.

A typical scene during a firefighting operation as a UH-1J has its fire bucket attached. The sign on
the tanker truck says:
2nd Division, unit on disaster relief, 2nd [Aviation] Squadron (Asahikawa).
(Photo [Omu, Hokkaido Prefecture, May 2019]: JGSDF/2nd Division)

Back in April 1971, strong winds in Kure, Hiroshima Prefecture, cruelly fanned the flames of a fire that had been started by construction workers to clear a site. The fire eventually extended over 340 hectares (840 acres) and, horrifically, claimed the lives of 18 firefighters.

That was long before the advent of today’s network of municipal and/or prefectural helicopter units; Tokyo had received its first helicopter, a standard Alouette III, in April 1967, but the Hiroshima Prefecture aviation unit did not commence operations until July 1996. Advances in technology have played their part in diminishing the need to put large numbers of people in potential harm’s way.

On the subject of technology, in early April—ahead of the fire season—the Hokkaido Prefecture Comprehensive Policy Department began kitting out JGSDF aviation squadrons with new, prefecture-owned sprinkler equipment for aerial firefighting. It is intended that the deployment of these improved systems will lead to more rapid initial responses by the SDF’s helicopter units and enhanced firefighting operations by the prefecture’s own aviation unit.

A total of 10 units were being supplied to the aviation squadrons; two each for those attached to the 2nd and 5th divisions (at Asahikawa and Obihiro, respectively) and to the 7th and 11th brigades as well as the Northern Army Helicopter Squadron at Okadama.

Some examples of past and recent missions have been sprinkled among the relevant units involved on the two JGSDF Squadron Histories pages of this website.

Additional Final Curtain Call Colour Scheme

(Photo: JASDF/Hyakuri AB)

(April 15, 2020) Like the 302nd TFS, its former neighbour, the 301st TFS was allowed to paint a second aircraft in special markings as it enters the last few months of its 48-year association with the Phantom.

What is destined to soon become the unit’s final most photographed example of the type, metallic-blue ’436 was unveiled alongside last year’s model, the frog- and scarf-marked, predominantly yellow ’315, at an official PR event at Hyakuri today.

The tail marking comprises a seemingly bowing out (or about to doff his hat) Spook, the marking originally devised for Phantom pilot shoulder patches by Tony Wong, a technical artist at what was then McDonnell-Douglas back in 1962. The design is thus celebrating its own ruby anniversary and, given the type’s length of service, is fast heading to being in the public domain.

(Photo: JASDF/Hyakuri AB)

Elsewhere, the words Phantom Forever have been emblazoned on the fuselage sides, flanked by two blue plan-view silhouettes and blue frog, while Thank you Phantom II appears on the upper surfaces of the wings, to be shown off by the designated display pilot. The Spook lurks under the wingtips, too (above).

(Photo: JASDF/Hyakuri AB)

The ground crew worked hard to complete this last special colour scheme project on a Phantom, as the aircraft had still been in standard scheme a month before. Not for them the back projection technique used by other units, this was lovingly done by hand with lots of masking tape around the end of March. Other details include the badges of the eight front-line JASDF squadrons that have operated the type—test yourself using the photo above—on the left-side splitter plate; that on the right side was blank at the event, so perhaps they had run out of time after all.

The same aircraft at the 301st’s former Nyutabaru home in December 2002
(Photo: Takao Kadokami)

And here’s the same aircraft in a snazzy scheme when assigned to the 301st in September 2013 (link).

As no airshow is planned at Hyakuri later this year, due to the holding of the SDF review there, many will be still hoping to catch a final glimpse of these aircraft when, conditions permitting, they set off on their farewell airshow tour. The spotlight will then be firmly trained on the very first Phantom, ’301, which is still plying its test trade from Gifu . . .

JCG H225 Orders and Arrivals

The Airbus Helicopters press release that announced the latest JCG H225 buy was accompanied by
this fine action shot. One of two aircraft named
Inuwashi (Golden Eagle), which normally nest at
Tokyo International Airport, this example was delivered in January 2015.

(Photo: Airbus Helicopters/Anthony Pecchi)

(April 6, 2020) Announced today, the latest follow-on order for another two H225s will, according to manufacturer’s figures, bring the Japan Coast Guard’s fleet to a total of 15, comprising two 1997-vintage AS332s and 13 H225s. The first of the latter, then known as the Eurocopter EC22LP, arrived in March 2008. A total of 28 helicopters from the Super Puma family are currently operational in Japan.

In the press release, Airbus Helicopters Japan Managing Director Guillaume Leprince refers to the company having delivered three aircraft of this type to the JCG in recent months. These are the trio ordered in June 2017, the first two of which were officially handed over to the JCG on December 23, 2019. All three were destined for service on board two newly commissioned patrol vessels assigned to the Kagoshima-based 10th Region: the Reimei (PLH-33), the third of the Shikishima class; and the Mizuho-class Shunkō (PLH-42).

A call for the public to provide suggestions in October 2019 resulted in the two to be operated from the Reimei being named Hayataka, which in Japanese not only combines the kanji for peregrine falcon and hawk but is also a reference to the Hayato (Falcon People) who lived in what is now Kagoshima Prefecture during the Nara period (710–794). Assigned to the Shunkō, the other was named Nabezuru (Hooded Crane), as more than 80% of the world’s population of this species of bird overwinters in Kagoshima Prefecture.

The press release also states that these helicopters would be utilized for “territorial coastal activities, security enforcement, as well as disaster relief missions in Japan”; they and the ships from which they will operate were primarily ordered to bolster Japan’s presence around the disputed Senkaku Islands.

The specialist Naval News site states that, in 2012, the JCG had 51 patrol vessels of more than 1,000-ton displacement. The service now has now 63 large vessels, and the goal is to have added 12 more by March 2024.

A Farewell Look Back at 501st Squadron Phantoms

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

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

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

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

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

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

The second RF-4E prior to being assigned to squadron service, and hence devoid of
markings, at Nyutabaru AB in November 1975.
(Photo:Takao Kadokami)

Final JGSDF OH-6D Flight Takes Place

(Photo: Japan Ministry of Defense/JGSDF Eastern Aviation)

(March 25, 2020) It today fell to Tachikawa-based Eastern Region Helicopter Squadron to record the last flight by a JGSDF OH-6D.

Kawasaki having built the first example in 1979, this particular example (31311) had been in service for 23 years, since 1997. The final flight destination was Kasumigaura, which is used as the repository for withdrawn and/or stored aircraft.

All involving the respective unit’s last examples of OH-6Ds coming home to roost, similar events had taken place during the course of March at Akeno (10th AvSqn, two aircraft), Hofu (13th AvSqn), Kisarazu (102nd Sqn), Metabaru (4th AvSqn, two aircraft) and Soumagahara (12th AvSqn).

3rd TFS Makes Its Move

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

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

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

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

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

JASDF Newcomers Arrive via Northern Latitudes

The three Cessna Latitude aircraft destined for the JASDF when still at Textron Aviation’s
facility in Wichita, Kansas.
(Photo: Textron Aviation Inc.)

(March 21, 2020) Written in May but cunningly placed to appear as if added at the time, this report reveals that the latest recruits to the JASDF inventory crept in under the J-HangarSpace radar—actually quite appropriately and easily done!—back in March.

The first two U-680A radar calibration aircraft for the Flight Check Group arrived at Iruma AB on March 21 with their tail serials (02-3031 and ’032) blanked out. The third aircraft is scheduled for delivery next year, initially like this pair to the Kanematsu Corporation, Cessna’s agent in Japan.

A direct approach to Textron Aviation for photos having been met with a deafening silence, attempts to track down the aircraft had ended when the trail went dead in Norway. It turned out that the aircraft had been flown to the Norwegian Special Mission (NSM) company’s Oslo-Gardermoen Airport facility to have UNIFIS 3000-G2 flight inspection system equipment installed. (A general idea of the interior layout can be found on NSM’s website here [link]). This accounts for the aircraft still wearing Norwegian registrations upon their arrival in Japan.

Reported in a more timely fashion (see Bulletin Board posting for December 1, 2016), the selection of the mid-size Cessna Model 680A Citation executive jet was followed by the placement of an order for all three aircraft in September 2017. Based on the Citation Sovereign development, the Latitude, the type is powered by Pratt & Whitney Canada PW306D turbofans. Other photos can be found on the Order of Battle, Squadron History Part 3 and Base History (Iruma) pages.

501st Flies Its Final Training Missions

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

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

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

(Photo: JASDF Hyakuri AB)

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

Uzurano Museum Adding Cockpit-only Exhibit

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

302nd Sqn Eagle Tail Marking Returns

(Photo: JASDF Misawa AB)

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

Aviation Museums Temporarily Close Their Doors

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

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

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

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

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

ShinMaywa Heralds Its 50th Aircraft

(Photo: ShinMaywa Industries, Ltd. via Facebook)

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

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

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

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

New Mitsubishi Archive Now Accepting Reservations

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fukushima Police Helicopter Involved in Non-Fatal Crash

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Herculean Efforts Help Fight Fires Down Under

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

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

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

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

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

(Photo [January 30]: JASDF Komaki)

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

Popular Addition Made to Gifu Base Collection

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

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

Atsugi SNJ-5 Given Back Its JMSDF Identity Tags

(Photo: NAF Atsugi via Facebook)

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

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

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

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




Air Shows in 2024
Jan. 20  Iruma
Mar. 3  Komaki
Mar. 24  Kumagaya
May 19  Shizuhama
May 26  Miho
June 2  Hofu-Kita
Aug. 25 Matsushima
Sept. 8  Misawa
Sept. 15  Chitose
Sept. 23  Komatsu
Oct. 6  Ashiya
Oct. 27  Hamamatsu
Nov. 3  Iruma
Nov. 17  Gifu
Dec. 8  Hyakuri
Dec.*  Naha
* To be confirmed

Air Shows in 2023
Mar. 5  Komaki
Apr. 2  Kumagaya

May 28  Miho
May 28  Shizuhama
June 3  Nara
               (Open Day)
June 4  Hofu
July 30  Chitose
Aug. 27  Matsushima
Sept. 10  Misawa
Sept. 24  Akita
Oct. 7  Komatsu
Oct. 15  Ashiya
Oct. 29  Hamamatsu
Nov. 12  Gifu
Nov. 26  Tsuiki
Dec. 3  Nyutabaru
Dec. 10  Naha
Dec. 17  Hyakuri

Air Shows in 2024
Jan. 7  Narashino
 (paratroop display)
Apr. 6  Kasuminome
Apr. 6  Utsunomiya
Apr. 13  Somagahara
June 16  Obihiro
June 30  Okadama
June*  Kasumigaura
Oct.*  Tachikawa
* To be confirmed 

Air Shows in 2023

Apr. 8 Somagahara
May 27  Kita-
June 3  Kasumigaura
June 11  Obihiro
July 2  Okadama

Aug. 5  Kasuminome
Oct. 1   Kisarazu
Oct. 29  Tachikawa

Nov. 4  Akeno

Air Shows in 2024
Apr. 20  Atsugi
  (US Navy/JMSDF)
Apr. 28  Kanoya
May 5  Iwakuni
(Joint Friendship Day)
July 21  Tateyama
July 28  Hachinohe
* To be confirmed 

Air Shows in 2023
Apr. 15  Iwakuni
(Joint Friendship Day)
Apr. 22  Atsugi

Apr. 30  Kanoya
May 28 Omura
July 23  Tateyama
Sept. 2  Maizuru
Sept. 17  Hachinohe
Oct. 1  Ozuki
Oct. 21  Shimofusa
Nov. 18  Tokushima


JASDF 2022









JASDF 2019

Komaki 2019 poster



JGSDF 2022


Narashino 2019
 (paratroop display)


JMSDF 2022







Ozuki 2019



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


Asian Air Arms

The Aviation Historian

Nabe3’s Aviation Pages


Japan Association of Aviation Photo-

(Site dedicated to displayed aircraft in Asia)

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