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JASDF Aircraft Roll Call

JASDF AIRCRAFT IN-SERVICE DATES IN CHRONOLOGICAL ORDER

Aircraft Type / In Service / No. (dels. ongoing) / Notes

T-34A Mentor 1954–1982 144      
KAL-2 1954–1962 1      → JGSDF
F-86F Sabre 1954–1982  445      
T-6 variants 1955–1970 179      
C-46 Commando 1955–1978 48      
T-33A 1955–2000 278      
Vampire T.55 1956–1960 1      
T-28B Trojan 1956–1964 1      
H-19C 1957–1973 21      
F-86D Sabre 1958–1968 122      
         
Fuji T-1 1960–2006 66   ff T-1A Jan. 19, 1958*
H-21B 1960–1967 10    
RF-86F Sabre 1961–1979 18   Converted F-86Fs
F-104J Starfighter 1962–1986 210   ff (Lockheed) June 30, 1961
14 aircraft → UF-104J/JA standard 
F-104DJ Starfighter 1962–1986 20    
S-62J 1963–1983 9    
YS-11 variants 1965–(2021**) 13    
MU-2S 1967–2008 29   SAR version
KV-107 1967–2009 52    
         
F-4EJ Phantom II 1971–2021 140   ff (US) Jan. 14. 1971
Kawasaki C-1 1971– 33   ff XC-1 Nov. 12, 1970
RF-4E Phantom II 1974–2020 14    
Mitsubishi T-2 1975–2006 96   ff July 20, 1971
Mitsubishi MU-2J 1975–1995 4   Flight check version
Mitsubishi F-1 1977–2006 77   ff FST-2Kai June 16, 1977
Fuji T-3 1978–2007 50   ff Jan. 17, 1978
         
Beech B-65 1980–1999 5   ex-JMSDF
F-15J Eagle 1981– 165   ff (US) June 4, 1980
F-15DJ Eagle 1981– 48    
E-2C Hawkeye 1983– 13    
C-130H Hercules 1984– 16    
Kawasaki T-4 1985– 212   ff XT-4 July 29, 1985
CH-47J/LR Chinook 1986– 31   + Five FY2024 budget
         
UH-60J 1991– (77)   Dels. ongoing
B747-400 1992–2019 2    
U-125 1992– 3   Flight check version
UF-104J/JA Starfighter 1992–1997 14   Conversions
Beech T-400 1994– 13    
U-125A 1995– 28   SAR version
Mitsubishi F-2A 1996– 64   ff XF-2A Oct. 7, 1995
Mitsubishi F-2B 1996– 34   ff XF-2B Apr. 17, 1996
E-767 1996– 4    
Gulfstream IV (U-4) 1997– 5    
         
Fuji T-7 2002– 49   ff July 2002
KC-767 2008– 4    
         
Kawasaki C-2 2016– (17)   ff XC-2 Jan. 26, 2010
F-35A Lightning II 2017– (71)   ff (US) Aug. 24, 2016
B777-300ER 2018– 2   First arr Aug. 2018
E-2D Hawkeye 2019– (18)   First arr Mar. 2019
         
U-680A 2020– 3   Third del’d Jan. 2021
KC-46A 2021– (6)   Fourth del’d Mar. 2024
F-35B Lightning II (2024–) (27)    

* ff (T-1B) May 17, 1960
** YS-11EA (2) in non-flying storage/ YS-11EB (3) still in service early 2024

As it’s not every year that the JASDF welcomes a brand-new aircraft type, a photo one of the 
service’s latest recruits, the U-680A. The first two of the three ordered from Textron Aviation  
for the Flight Check Group arrived in March 2020. (Photo: JASDF/Iruma AB via Twitter
)

(Above) At the other end of its career, the most recent of the currently three T-4s to have been found
retirement homes, 805 is assembled to form part of a permanent display at the Aichi Museum of
Flight. All three aircraft were formerly operated by the Blue Impulse team’s 11th Sqn.

(Below) The instrument panel of 66-5745, which is displayed in the JASDF Air Park.
The first of four prototype XT-4s took to the air on July 29, 1985, but it was to be June 28, 1988,
before the first production example followed suit. The end of production was hailed when the
212th and last aircraft was handed over on March 6, 2003.
(Photos, via Twitter October 2022: [Top] ししもも @sisimomo2011;
[above] てっちゃん@aichi_mof_vol @ae01152751)

Overview of Hawkeye’s JASDF Career (October 2023)

(Photo [Iruma AB, posted Jan. 2022]: のり via X [formerly Twitter] @norinori_1977)

Prompted by the 40th anniversary of the type’s entry into squadron service in 2023, J-HangarSpace offers a radar-blip scan of the Hawkeye in JASDF service.

The then Japan Defense Agency was jolted into action for the need for an airborne early warning capability by a well-known incident: the undetected approach of defecting Soviet Air Force pilot Viktor Belenko in his MiG-25 to Hakodate airport on September 6, 1976. It was not until January 1979 that the decision was taken to adopt the E-2C Hawkeye, the first four of which were purchased that year.

The first aircraft made its maiden flight from Grumman’s Bethpage facility in May 1982, and after a period spent crew training the first pair were ferried to Japan, where they arrived at Kisarazu on January 27, 1983. On February 8, 1983, they were flown to what was to become their permanent home at Misawa, where a preparatory ground unit had been set up on December 12 the previous year. The first pair of aircraft were joined by the third and fourth aircraft in July 1983; all four were initially flown by the Air Proving Wing for operational testing. The E-2C fleet was gradually built up to a total of 13 aircraft in 1994, and their capabilities enhanced through upgrades.

In the meantime, what had started out as the Provisional Airborne Early Warning (AEW) Group with those four E-2Cs at Misawa on November 15, 1983, dropped the “provisional” status and became the unit in overall command of the newly formed 601st Sqn on April 5, 1986.

The second E-2C graced the cover of the November 1983 issue of Aireview magazine.

(For a chronology of unit events, please refer to the table on JASDF Squadron Histories Part 2 page)

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

Fast forward to the five-year Medium-Term Defense Program (MTDP) that ran up to and including fiscal year (FY) 2018, ended March 31, 2019, which called for the introduction of four new AW&C aircraft to “enhance the warning and surveillance capabilities in the surrounding airspace, including the southwest region.” It was announced on November 21, 2014, that the E-2D Advanced Hawkeye had been selected over the Boeing 737 Wedgetail as the third constituent equipment of the JASDF’s AW&C Group; alongside its four E-767s and the E-2Cs.

Valued at $151.3m, the contract for the first E-2D was awarded in November 2015, with completion due originally by March 2018. The second and third examples were ordered in July 2016 and June 2018, under the budgets for FY2016 and 2018, respectively; ordered in October 2018, funding for a fourth aircraft was included in the finalized FY2019 budget.

In August 2016, the first two aircraft were being manufactured at Northrop Grumman’s St. Augustine facility in Florida, still for delivery in 2018. The first aircraft flew for the first time from there on October 9, 2017, and mission systems flight testing was undertaken from the company’s facility in Melbourne, Florida, from December 2017. (See also Bulletin Board entry for Nov. 13, 2017.)

In the meantime, the procurement of an additional nine E-2Ds was approved under the current five-year MTDP, which was passed on December 18, 2018, and ends on March 31, 2024, thereby equaling the E-2C buy.

That first aircraft (91-3471), the first of the two due in FY2019, finally arrived at the port of Iwakuni on board the U.S.-registered cargo ship Ocean Freedom on March 15, 2019, before being flown to Misawa on March 27. Still wearing U.S. national markings and the word NAVY on both sides of its fuselage, these were to be removed and hinomaru applied prior to the official handover ceremony and the commencement of operational evaluation flights from Hamamatsu.

One of the two enshrouded E-2Ds that arrived on March 7, 2020, is seen fresh off the boat (above)
and having its engines run up under likewise leaden skies, still at Iwakuni, in late June 2020.

(Photos: Seagull-jap via Twitter @miejapan4)

It has been assumed that the second aircraft has been kept behind in the United States for crew training purposes, as the third- and fourth-built aircraft were delivered to Iwakuni in June 2020, only for flight testing to be delayed as a precaution against the spread of COVID-19.

Following on from the initial four aircraft, Japan requested an additional nine aircraft under a proposed foreign military sale valued at $3.1 billion, bringing the total to 13 E-2Ds, equaling the number of E-2Cs acquired. In May 2020, the Mainichi Shimbun news media website reported on a Japan Ministry of Defense interview, in which it was stated the deployment time for the E-2D could be delayed by at least four years from the original schedule. The main reason given was the difficulties in modifying the aircraft to extend their range to that required by the JASDF; unlike their shipborne U.S. Navy counterparts, JASDF E-2Ds carry extra fuel in their wings, thereby increasing their endurance by around three hours to eight hours.

Two more (in total the fifth and sixth aircraft) arrived at Iwakuni, again by ship, on October 19, 2022, and were ferried to Misawa the following month. Although the plans were for them to bolster the southwest region from Naha, all the E-2Ds are currently operated from Misawa.

Financing of 194.1 billion yen for five E-2Ds has been included in the FY2023 budget, bringing the total to 18 aircraft.

The first E-2D on approach with arrestor hook deployed for what was to prove a successful
emergency landing after having suffered an engine problem on October 11, 2022.

(Photo: おかげ犬 via Twitter @9Wva2QLQp5d6nEE) 

What’s Over the Horizon for the E-2Cs?

The 13 E-2Cs fall into two distinct groups, those delivered in 1983 (four) and 1985 (four), and those that followed in 1993 (three) and 1994 (two). The withdrawal of early model E-2Cs has already begun, as evidenced by a December 2019 report of a company called Funayama Co., Ltd. winning a 22.5 million yen bid for protection work relating to the outdoor storage of E-2C aircraft, and three aircraft seen under wraps with their radomes removed at Gifu, home of airframe maintenance contractor Kawasaki, in November 2022. Although the latest active service sightings of any aircraft from the initial batch date back to 2020/21, those at Gifu were all reportedly from the second batch, received in 1985.

The three E-2Cs mothballed minus their rotodomes are seen cordoned off on the day of the Gifu air
show in November 2023. The nearest can be confirmed as 54-3456, one of the second batch of four
originally delivered in 1985.
(Photo: はみんぐばーどvia X (formerly Twitter) @FTB2007)

Three of the five aircraft in the second group have been converted with eight-blade Collins Aerospace NP2000 propellers, which reduce vibration and facilitate maintenance; the first of these was completed around December 2017. Although even those airframes are now 30 years old, there have been reports that they will be remaining in service until the late 2020s.

The main base for Hawkeye operations is Misawa, where in winter the standard color scheme of
light grey upper surfaces and white undersides can receive a boost from snow-reflected sunlight.

(Photo [posted Jan. 2022]: おかげ犬 via X [formerly Twitter] @9Wva2QLQp5d6nEE)

Seen taxying at Misawa is one of the three E-2Cs modified with eight-blade NP2000 propellers.
This aircraft underwent the process, first completed on 34-3459 in 2017, at the same time as
44-3463
(link) early in 2021. (Photo: MH-38R via X [formerly Twitter] @38rMh)

(Photo: MH-38R via X [formerly Twitter] @38rMh)

Kawasaki C-1 Retrospective/Sitrep (Aug. 2022)

(Photo: NOCAR via Twitter @CharlieYankee22)

(August 2022) To coincide with this month’s release of a mook (magazine book) on Japan’s first twin-jet transport—Kawasaki C-1, Famous Airplanes of the World Special Edition Vol. 9, pictured on the homepage and featured in a review on the Magazine/Books page—J-HangarSpace brings you a chronological photo overview of the type. Now nearing the 52nd anniversary of the protoype’s first flight, which took place on November 12, 1970, the type’s service career has already spanned five decades.

1970s

Sporting the Air Proving Wing’s tail marking and a striped nose probe, the first prototype C-1 is
seen on a visit to Iruma AB, circa
May 1, 1974; a group of C-46s in the background appear to
have already had their tails removed. Having been first flown
(as 18-0001) on November 12,
1970, around three months after its rollout, this aircraft was delivered to the then
Japan Defense Agency on February 24, 1971.
(Photo: Akio Misawa)

The second prototype on the ramp at Naha, circa May 1, 1973. First flown as 18-0002 on
January 16, 1971, two weeks after its rollout ceremony, this aircraft was delivered on
March 20 that year and like ’001 remains in service more than 50 years later.

(Photo: Akio Misawa)

The first production version C-1 arrives at the Okadama Air Pageant event on September 3, 1978.
Fulfilling the role of a service data collection aircraft, ’005 was allowed to clock up flying hours
at a faster rate and thus became the first airframe to be broken up, in April 2012.

(Photo: くにvia Twitter @blue_kuni18)

1980s

First seen being worn by ’008, the now long-time standard camouflage scheme was gradually
adopted from late in 1978.
(Photo [402nd Sqn, Iruma, Nov. 1980]: Akira Watanabe)

Erected by the Komaki-based 1st Tactical Airlift Group, a map shows the route to a monument on
Oyama, a 236-metre hill in the centre of Sugashima, an island that forms part of the city of Toba
in Mie Prefecture. The monument commemorates the 14 JASDF members who lost their lives
here, in a low-visibility controlled flight into terrain incident involving two C-1s
(58-1009 and 68-1015) on April 19, 1983.

(Photos: JASDF Komaki AB via Twitter @komaki_airbase)

Following modifications, the first aircraft has served as the C-1 Flying Test Bed (C-1FTB) since
January 1982. In 1984, the aircraft was used to test the FJR710/600S engine, four of
which would power the Asuka Quiet STOL research aircraft.

(Photo [Gifu, Oct. 1984]: とうちゃぽん via Twitter @touchapon50)

On February 18, 1986, 402nd Sqn C-1 58-1010 (pictured here over Shizuoka Prefecture during disaster relief training in September 1984 [link]) ended up sliding off the runway when attempting to takeoff from Iruma AB. Fortunately, although the aircraft was written off, none of the crew members were injured.

Delivered on February 19, 1976, and seen here at Ashiya AB in November 1989, the 14th
C-1 was to make its last flight on May 17, 2019. (Photo: Takao Kadokami)

(Photo [Iruma, Nov. 1982]: Akio Misawa)

1990s

Probably the first non-standard C-1 markings were those carried on at least three 402nd Sqn aircraft
that were flown in formation at the November 1991 Iruma air show. Later that same month, one of 
them was still carrying the markings at the Tsuiki air show. They comprised the yellow, radio
callsign-based
COSMO FLIGHT logo, with each ‘O’ made into a Saturn-like planet. The
blue nose badge included a cartoon depiction of a
shishi (lion, but also the
name given to the guardian dog on the left-side of Shinto shrines).

(Photos: [Top, Tsuiki, Nov. 1991] Takao Kadokami; [above, Iruma, Nov. 1991] Akio Misawa)

At the time assigned to the 403rd Sqn, as evidenced by the broom-riding witch tail
marking, the second C-1 was present at the Iruma air show in 1993.

(Photo: BANCHOUさんvia Twitter @BANF30)

In 1994, the then Miho-based 11th aircraft (link) was prepared for the JASDF’s 40th anniversary by having its engine cowlings (link) painted with special markings; the ‘Comet’ is a reference to the 403rd’s radio call-sign. The same markings were reportedly applied to ’013.

(Image from auction site [link])

In 1998, it was Miho AB’s turn to celebrate four decades of existence. Unfortunately, the aircraft concerned (68-1019), which was star-spangled and gift-wrapped in a red bow as a thank you to visitors to that year’s Miho 40th anniversary air show, seems to have somehow largely eluded photography; hence resorting to the image (above) from a plastic model’s box art. (A series of photos can be found on this blog [link]).

Landing at Iruma in June 1998, 98-1029 shows off the full-length yellow eagle design
adopted for the 2nd TAG’s 40th anniversary.
(Photo: Akio Misawa)

2000s

The monument erected on Miho AB in memory of the five airmen lost on active service
on June 28, 2000.
(Image from video [posted June 26, 2020] via Twitter @MIHO_AB)

Tragedy struck the C-1 fleet once again on June 28, 2000, when 88-1027 crashed into the sea off Okinoshima, Shimane Prefecture, 110 km from its Miho base. Its exact cause unknown, the accident claimed the lives of all five crew members on what had been a post-maintenance test flight.

Blue-camouflaged C-1 58-1012 was selected for the suitably distinctive 2nd TAG’s JASDF
50th anniversary livery in 2004 . . .
(Photo [Nyutabaru AB, Dec. 2004]: Takao Kadokami)

. . . while, not to be outdone, the 3rd TAG’s representative for the same occasion
(58-1006) was painted blue overall with a fuselage-length Pegasus marking.
(Photo: JASDF Public Affairs Office via Twitter @JASDF_PAO)

As the 2nd TAG had been heavily involved with Japan’s peacekeeping mission in Iraq, a desert camouflage-type scheme was selected to mark its half-century in 2008. Applied to 58-1007 (link), the standard green was replaced by a light brown and a logo and slogan added to the outer sides of its white-painted engine nacelles (link). The two-line slogan, which read the same on both sides (link), contained words to the effect of “Flying forever, as long as there are people to protect; [Maintaining] tradition for future capabilities 2nd TAG”.

Also in 2008, 58-1011 was painted in a primarily two-tone blue scheme to mark Miho AB’s half-century (right side [link]). The markings comprised, on the tail, a character from the GeGeGe no Kitarō cartoon series by Shigeru Mizuki, who had been raised in the local Tottori Prefecture port town of Sakaiminato; the tail design also included the outline of Mt. Daisan, a nearby landmark. Connected to the tail by a streamer, the anniversary logo on the forward fuselage was in the stylized shape of the Yumigahama Peninsula, on which Miho AB is located. Again, use was also made of the space provided by the engine nacelles (left side [link]).

2010s

(Photo [Iruma. Nov. 2014]: Andy Binks)

Surprisingly, for the JASDF’s 60th anniversary in 2014, the C-1 units had to make do with
attaching large versions of the official logo sticker to their aircraft.
(Photo [Tsuiki, Nov. 2014]: Takao Kadokami)

Having been one of the 402nd Sqn’s COSMO FLIGHT aircraft back in 1991, the second
pre-production, fourth-built C-1 was given the special 60th anniversary tail marking
when on the books of the Air Development & Test Wing at Gifu in 2015.

(Photo: ししもも@夏バテ中 via Twitter @sisimomo2011)

As if making up for the lack of an opportunity in 2014, the 2nd TAG pulled out all the design stops
for its 60th in 2018. Extending even to the engine intake covers
(link), the kabuki design
was apparently 10 years in the making, having originally been put forward
for the 2nd’s half-century in 2008.

(Photos [Iruma, Oct. 2018]: COSMO373 via Twitter @minami373vr46)

Breaking up is apparently not too hard to do. Feted on May 11, 2015, after having completed
a service career totalling 17,780 hours, 78-0022 was finally broken up in April 2016.
Over the 2010s, the C-1 fleet was gradually whittled down; only Miho retirement
resident ’003 managed to escape the scrapyard fate that had befallen
’022 and 12 other aircraft by the end of the decade.

(Photos: JASDF Iruma AB)

Not providing too good an impression, a tail- and engineless C-1 013 was in plain view during
the public Iruma Runway Walk event in May 2019. Delivered for service in December 1975,
the aircraft had been withdrawn from operational use in July the previous year.

(Photo: アルヒト via Twitter @ihansha)

2020s

(Photo: のりvia Twitter @norinori_1977)

Taken at the Iruma AB air show, November 3, 2022, the fine photo above shows C-1 029 (hence known as o-niku or ‘meat’) on short finals at the end of its last flight. The aircraft was then placed on static display behind a signboard that provided the following information:

Delivered Sept. 21, 1979
Oct. 1979 to Jan. 1983 (1st TAG, Komaki)
June to Sept. 1983 (2nd TAG, Iruma)
Sept. 1983 to Aug. 1986 (1st TAG, Komaki)
Feb. 1987 to Oct. 1990 (2nd TAG, Iruma)
Mar. 1991 to Aug. 1994 (3rd TAG, Miho)
June 1995 to date (2nd TAG, Iruma)
[See above photo for 1998 special markings] 
Total flight time: 17,880 hrs

That makes an average of a mere 416 flight hours per year, though it would be interesting to know how many landings the aircraft made in that time.

(Photo [July 2022]: DOLPHIN via Twitter @s2f5g4)

Including the EC-1, only seven of the original 31 C-1 airframes remain on active service (as of November 2022). There are two years to wait for the C-1 unit’s last opportunity to show off JASDF anniversary special markings, the 70th in 2024.

Postscripts

C-1s 019 and 024 depart Iruma for a night training flight, April 10, 2023.
YouTube video of their takeoff can be viewed here
(link). (Photo: のりvia Twitter @norinori_1977)

On the suitably sombre rainy morning of March 26, 2024, 024 and 029 were towed out to what
seemed likely to be their final resting places at Iruma
. (Photo: きつね via X @kitsunemori_F2)

In the spring of 2024, there were reports that three C-1s are to be preserved: at Iruma AB, Hamamatsu Air Park, and Tokorozawa Aviation Museum (next to the C-46).

JASDF Aircraft Programmes

This section primarily provides general status overviews by type of those aircraft (excluding drones) that are currently being procured or for which funding is being sought:

Boeing KC-46A Pegasus
Kawasaki C-2
Lockheed Martin F-35A/B Lightning II
Mitsubishi-Sikorsky UH-60J

osakabe3crs(Photo [Yokota AB, September 2018]: U.S. Air Force/Yasuo Osakabe, 374th AW Public Affairs)

The budget system employed by the Japan Ministry of Defense calls for equipment requests for the following fiscal year (FY) to be submitted to the government in August and approved in December. The fiscal year runs from April 1 of that year to March 31 of the following year.

For the purposes of longer term planning, the Cabinet approves a five-year Medium-Term Defense Program (MTDP). Passed on December 18, 2018, the current MTDP runs from FY2019 to FY2023 and, in the JASDF’s case, envisaged the procurement of 45 F-35As (and 20 F-15J upgrades), nine E-2Ds, four KC-46As and five C-2s.

Current Aircraft Procurement

Boeing KC-46A Pegasus

KC-767 departs Fairford 140714One of the four KC-767s delivered between 2008 and 2010 climbs out from RAF Fairford, England,
in July 2014. The KC-767 fleet is due to be augmented by the entry into service of the first of six
KC-46As in 2021.
(Photo: Adrian Pingstone via Wikimedia Commons)

Following final assembly, the first KC-46A Pegasus destined for the JASDF was rolled out at the
manufacturer’s Everett factory on September 20, 2020.

(Photo: The Boeing Company via Twitter @BoeingDefense)

Under the previous MTDP, which ran until FY2018, the Japan Ministry of Defense declared its intention to acquire three new tanker/transport aircraft of a then unspecified type for the JASDF. The first and second aircraft were included in the FY2017 and FY2018 budgets, none were added in FY2019.

At a press conference on October 23, 2015, then Defense Minister Gen Nakatani announced that the U.S. government-proposed Boeing KC-46A had been selected; one appeared on the finalized FY2016 budget shopping list, but approval only came with that requested under FY2017 funding.

Setting a deadline of September 8, a request for proposals had been issued on June 17, 2015. Airbus having declined to make “inappropriate use of shareholders’ funds and company resources” by putting forward its A330 Multi-Role Tanker Transport for what they clearly saw as a lost cause, the Boeing KC-46A was the only submission. 

At the time of the announcement of the type’s first overseas sales success, the U.S. Air Force KC-46A Pegasus programme was nearing the end of its development phase. Based on the Boeing 767-2C, the first of four prototypes had flown for the first time only a month before, on September 25, 2015. 

Based at Miho AB in Tottori Prefecture, Japan’s KC-46A fleet is capable of refuelling the JGSDF’s V-22B Osprey tiltrotor aircraft. Their unit price tags of 20.8 billion yen (around $173 million) due to be funded as part of the FY2016 budget, the aircraft were planned to be deployed in around 2020. The exact dates were to be subject to slot availability on a production line that was then set to fulfill a U.S. Air Force requirement for 179 aircraft over the space of a decade commencing in August 2017.

Bearing the civil registration N6018N on its tail, the first KC-46A destined for the JASDF took 
to the air for the first time on February 8, 2021. The second aircraft was present
at Paine Field and reportedly close to following suit early in August 2021.
(Photo: The Boeing Company/Marian Lockhart)

The first JASDF KC-46A lands back at Paine Field, which adjoins Boeing’s Everett plant, at the
conclusion of its maiden flight.
(Photo: Daniel Gorun via Twitter @dgorun)

A Boeing press release dated August 16, 2021, reported that the first KC-46A (now 14-3611) had
recently refueled a U.S. Air Force KC-46A and had itself been refueled in the skies over
Washington state. Footage of this milestone was also posted on YouTube
(link).
(Photo: The Boeing Company/Kevin Flynn)

The JASDF’s first KC-46A is showered with greetings upon its arrival at Miho AB on October 29,
2021. For its ferry flight, the aircraft had a U.S. serial number rather than a U.S. civil
registration masking its Japanese serial, and its
hinomaru national markings were
also covered.
(Photo: 海の飛行機撮りvia Twitter @SkyWatching_)

14-3611 at Komaki in March 2023 (Photo: GHOST via X @boy_816)

Delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the second aircraft (24-3612) arrived at Miho AB on February 24, 2022, four months after the first aircraft.

As shown below, approval was gained for all four KC-46As requested under FY2020 funding. 

KC-46A Budget Requests/Approvals

2017  2018 2019 2020 Total
1/1 1/1 4/4 6/6

 

The first four grey-camouflaged KC-46As lined up at Miho AB on March 15, 2024; from left,
24-3612, 34-3613, “24-46404”
(ex-N8287V, devoid of national markings having just
arrived that day), and 14-3611. The odd man out on the left is 404th Tactical
Airlift Tanker Sqn KC-767 97-3603 on a visit from Komaki.

(Photo: Taiji Kageyama via X @jtakage)

Kawasaki C-2

XC-2 Gifu(Photo: JASDF)

On July 4, 2014, the Japan Ministry of Defense announced that the development period for the C-2, which had been planned to end in March 2015, would be extended by two years. (See Bulletin Board, March 27, 2017)

The ministry’s then Technical Research & Development Institute (TRDI) at Gifu had been using a ground test airframe to verify the C-2’s structural integrity since 2005. On January 7, 2014, that airframe sustained damage to its cargo door and rear fuselage during pressurization tests, prompting the temporary grounding of the two XC-2s until February 19.

As reported in the Kōkū Fan magazine published in July (the September 2014 issue), an investigation found the root cause to have been a stress concentration-induced rupture at the part of the fuselage frame close to where the cargo and ramp doors meet. In the meantime, the two XC-2s continued to be operated from Gifu AB, having surpassed a combined total of 300 test flights. The first prototype appeared in formation with the 44-year-old prototype C-1 (now designated C-1FTB) during the SDF review flypast at Hyakuri AB, Ibaraki Prefecture, on October 26, 2014. From November 2014, the first prototype’s fuselage was replaced by one built to production aircraft standard; the aircraft was returned to the test programme at Gifu on February 24, 2016. 

This was the second time the C-2 programme had suffered a major delay. KHI engineers were forced back to their drawing boards in 2007 after structural weaknesses had been found in the main wing of that same first prototype XC-2, which was rolled out on July 4, 2007, but did not complete its maiden flight until January 26, 2010. The aircraft was finally handed over to the TRDI for flight testing two months later, on March 30.

The second prototype had made its first flight on January 27, 2011, and immediately joined the flight test programme. During the course of 2013, the aircraft was engaged in the in-flight, low-level operational testing of the ramp door and used to conduct paratrooper drop tests from its side door. These were followed by snow-covered runway trials from Gifu in December 2014 and deployment to Miho for three days of ground handling trials in October 2015.

Modified for the electronic intelligence (ELINT) and surveillance role, which has been fulfilled by a modified 1977-vintage Kawasaki C-1 flying as the EC-1 since 1983, the second prototype commenced flight testing from Gifu on February 8, 2018 (link).

The first production C-2 took to the skies for the first time on May 17, 2016, and was officially handed over to the Ministry on June 30, the first of three scheduled for delivery by the end of March 2017. The JASDF still has an estimated requirement for 30 of the aircraft, which is in the same weight category as the Airbus A400M and Antonov An-70. As shown in the chart below, orders for 13 production aircraft have so far been placed; the single aircraft requested under FY2016 funding failed to secure final approval. Drawn up before the pressurization test setback, the previous MTDP up to FY2018 had included 10 aircraft.

Production Kawasaki C-2 Budget Requests/Approvals

2011 2012 2014 2016  2017 2018 2019 2021 2022 2023 Total
2/2 2/2 2/2 1/0 3/3 2/2 2/2 2/1 1/0* 2/2 19/16

It was January 2018 when the first of the production examples were declared fully operational with an active unit at Miho in Tottori Prefecture, where in September 2013 a new control tower was inaugurated and new purpose-built hangars were being built in anticipation of the C-2’s arrival. The completion of the first new hangar was marked by a ceremony on January 27, 2017.

The 10th aircraft built first flew in January 2019 and had been delivered by the end of March the same year, then making a total of eight in squadron service; the 11th made its first flight on February 7, 2020, the 12th on October 15, 2020, after a delay caused by the COVID-19 outbreak.

* Although no additional C-2s were included in either the supplementary FY2021 or FY2022 budgets, the latter does include 4.6 billion yen for the procurement of devices to enable the RC-2 signals intelligence aircraft to take over the YS-11EB’s information-gathering role. 

Lockheed Martin F-35A/B Lightning II

The Japan Ministry of Defense announced the selection of the Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning II—the conventional takeoff and landing variant [link]—to fulfill its F-X (F-4EJ replacement) requirement on December 11, 2011. An agreement to purchase up to 42 aircraft followed in June 2012.

JASDF F-35 rolloutThe roll-out ceremony for the first JASDF F-35A took place on September 23, 2016.
(Photo: Lockheed Martin/Beth Steel)

As shown in the table below, the approval of the six aircraft requested under FY2016 brought the total number of F-35As on order to 22 and accounted for 16 of the 28 planned over the duration of the MTDP. An additional six aircraft were requested and approved under each of the three subsequent budgets. Thus far, requests for both variants have been approved.

Lockheed Martin F-35A Budget Approvals since FY2012

2012 2013 2014 2015 2016  2017  2018 2019 2020 2021 2022 2023 2024 Total
4 2 4 6  6 6 6 3 4 8 8 8 71

Lockheed Martin F-35B Budget Approvals

The FY2020 budget also included 79.3 billion yen ($725 million) for the first tranche of six (of a planned 42) F-35B short takeoff/vertical landing fighters destined to operate from the JMSDF’s Izumo helicopter carrier, the refit of which was to start in the following year.

            2019 2020 2021 2022 2023 2024 Total          
            6 2 4 8 7 27          

The first JASDF F-35A (AX-1) was rolled out at prime contractor Lockheed Martin’s Dallas-Fort Worth plant on September 23, 2016. At that time, the first four aircraft were scheduled to be delivered, presumably to the AD&TW at Gifu AB, from March 2017 onwards (and by the end of 2017). The subsequent 38 examples are being produced in Nagoya by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI).

JASDF F-35 at LukeJASDF maintenance personnel pose in front of their new charge at Luke AFB, Arizona, on
November 28, 2016, when the JASDF aircraft became the first Foreign Military Sales F-35
to arrive at the base. The low-visibility
hinomaru markings applied for the roll-out 
had been removed by this time.
(Photo: U.S. Air Force/Tech. Sgt. Louis Vega Jr.)

Lockheed Martin concluded the final assembly and check out (FACO) facility details with MHI and the other parties involved early in 2014. Following its selection by the U.S. Department of Defense, Nagoya will ultimately serve as the North Asia-Pacific regional Maintenance, Repair, Overhaul and Upgrade (MROU) facility, part of a global network providing advanced, long-term support for the F-35 fleets of a number of services. On the engine front, the Pratt & Whitney division of United Technologies Corporation signed an agreement with IHI Corporation covering the F135 turbofan in November 2013.

On October 2, 2015, a ceremony was held at Northrop Grumman Corporation’s Palmdale Aircraft Integration Center to mark the completion of the centre fuselage for the first of those 38 indigenously produced aircraft (AX-5). Giving some idea of the production rate, the milestone involved the 207th example of the major structure and the 30th unit manufactured in the year.

The manufacturing process at the Nagoya Plant includes mating the centre fuselage to the Lockheed Martin-produced forward fuselage/cockpit and wings as well as to the aft fuselage and empennage produced by principal subcontractor BAE Systems plc; AX-5 commenced its journey through the process on December 5, 2015, and was rolled out on June 5, 2017. Due to be introduced into service in 2017, the May 2016 issue of Koku Fan had carried photos of the still ‘green’ aircraft as it briefly saw the Nagoya light of day.

F-35A JASDF (4)The JASDF’s newest front-line face saw the official light of day for the first time on June 5, 2017,
as covered by a
Bulletin Board report. (Photo: Kenichi Sunohara/Aireview)

Although not a development partner, Japan invested in the FACO facility at Nagoya in part to maintain its expertise in the high-tech aerospace industry. While work progresses on the first aircraft, vertical logistics systems are being incorporated to compensate for the reduced floor space available.

In the latter half of 2014, the F-35 programme had made headlines as a result of the current Japanese government’s decision to conditionally lift the country’s long-standing, self-imposed ban on arms exports from April 1, 2014. On the one hand, the move appeared advantageous for the likes of Mitsubishi Electric Corporation and IHI, who could now plan to export their respective radar and engine components for installation in the F-35s operated by other nations’ air forces. On the other hand, the move prompted the Ministry of Defense to look into recouping part of its budgeted initial investment expenses, should an item of defence equipment be exported and contribute to the company in question’s profits.

Having requested increased government funding to enable the company to supply F-35 rear fuselages to BAE Systems, traditional JASDF jet fighter supplier MHI was unable to reach an agreement—on either the amount of profit that could be expected or the amount that would be reimbursed—and postponed its participation in the programme, pending contract renegotiation. As reported in the November 7, 2014, edition of the Tokyo Shimbun, this put on hold MHI’s export of assemblies, which are nonetheless components, but the company had already received orders to assemble and conduct the final checks on its quota of 38 aircraft for the JASDF at the dedicated facility, newly rebuilt with taxpayers’ money, inside its Komaki South plant.

While concerns were raised in the summer of 2014 about the impact of the U.S. dollar exchange rate on the F-35 programme as a whole, the aircraft kept an otherwise aptly low profile on the Japanese media radar screens. A full-scale F-35A mock-up was present at Hyakuri AB, Ibaraki Prefecture, for the SDF review in October of that year (and at the Japan Aerospace 2016 industry exhibition held in Tokyo). The engine fire that befell an aircraft on the ground at Eglin AFB, Florida, in June 2014 might be used in evidence by the local population as the type’s arrival at its first operational base of Misawa, Aomori Prefecture, looms near. In 2000, staunch local government opposition on safety grounds was a factor in the delayed arrival of the first JASDF F-2s at the base. The November 2017 issue of Kōkū Fan, which appeared in mid-September, reported that a Provisional F-35A Squadrom would be forming at the end of FY2017 and work up to strength with 20 aircraft to enable the 302nd Squadron to re-form on the type at Misawa by the end of FY2018. The 301st Squadron is currently scheduled to soldier on with the Phantom until FY2020, when it too will switch to the F-35A and take the place of the soon (by March 2020) to be Hyakuri-bound 3rd Squadron’s F-2s at Misawa. Meanwhile, the F-35 has already become a familiar sight in western Japan following the arrival of a U.S. Marine Corps unit at Iwakuni, Yamaguchi Prefecture.

Aircraft basing remains high on the political agenda in Okinawa, where the late Governor Takeshi Onaga made the vexed subject of the U.S. military presence the focus of his campaign in winning election in November 2014. Ahead of the vote, the Okinawa Times for November 10 that year reported that a plan was being devised to also maintain U.S. Marine Corps F-35s at Kadena AFB on Okinawa. Wisely, neither the U.S. nor the Japanese government has revealed any details about operating the F-35 from Okinawa, but the newspaper was highlighting a move that does at least assume integrated U.S. and possibly JASDF operations there. According to plans announced by the Marine Corps at that time, the ramp at Kadena was to be upgraded to accommodate F-35 operations in FY2016.

In the meantime, the first flights of the first and second Japanese-built aircraft took place on June 13 and September 25, 2017, respectively, and the latter was deployed to the Misawa-based Provisional F-35A Squadron on January 26, 2018. (Please see the postings on the Bulletin Board page for June 5, 2017, and January 26, 2018.) 

Progress of Deliveries

The 10th JASDF F-35A, the last of the four FY2014 aircraft, flew for the first time on September 13, 2018, and was followed by the 11th aircraft (89-8711) on November 1, 2018. The 18th aircraft (09-8718) completed its first flight on December 10, 2019, and was flown from Nagoya to Misawa with the 17th (09-8717) on January 30, 2020.

After COVID-19 prevented U.S. test pilots travelling to Japan to conduct the final checks, a series of at least three first flights were completed in October 2020; 09-8722 took to the skies for the first time on the 13th of the month. The 23rd and 24th aircraft achieved their first flights on the same day, February 22, 2021.

The first of the aircraft due for delivery in FY2021, the 25th aircraft (19-8725) was taken up for its maiden flight on May 24. The last of the six-aircraft FY2017 order, 19-8728 first flew on September 24, 2021, and was ferried to Misawa along with 19-8727 (first flown on September 15) on October 27, 2021. 

The 30th aircraft (29-8730) first flew on February 7, 2022, the 31st on April 5. Towards the end of the year, 29-8734 (Sept. 29) beat ‘733 (Oct. 11) into the air, which was followed by the ban on U.S. test pilots entering Japan being lifted. 

April 2023 saw the first flights of 39-8735 (Apr. 17) and of 736 the following day. 

F-35A JASDF (2)(Above and below) A major F-35 programme milestone was reached when the first Mitsubishi-
assembled aircraft was rolled out at the company’s Final Assembly and Check Out (FACO)
facility on June 5, 2017.
(Photos: Kenichi Sunohara/Aireview)

F-35A JASDF (3)

Mitsubishi-Sikorsky UH-60J

Matsushima UH-60J(Photo: JASDF)

Not to be confused with the current JGSDF utility helicopter requirement, the JASDF’s own UH-X programme for FY2011 revolved around a next-generation rescue helicopter. Ultimately, three UH-60Js were requested and approved under FY2011 funding.

The pattern of acquisition in recent years, which included a failed request in FY2013, is shown in the chart below; a total of 42 aircraft were procured from 1988 to FY2008. A contract for the equivalent of around U.S.$43 million was placed with Mitsubishi on February 29, 2016, to cover the single aircraft included under FY2015 budget financing; delivery was scheduled for January 2018.

The Japan Ministry of Defense announced on December 18, 2015, that additional UH-60Js would be procured under the FY2015 supplementary budget as part of additional funding earmarked to provide enhanced cover for disaster relief.; as it was, eight were procured under the FY2016 budget.

The first, modernized, refuelling-probe equipped UH-60J-II version was 58-4593, which was delivered in 2015. The most recent known example, the 63rd JASDF UH-60J built and the 21st to the new standard (18-4613, originally built as 08-4613), was delivered in around January 2021. 

Mitsubishi-Sikorsky UH-60J Budget Requests/Approvals since FY2011

2011 2013 2014 2015 2016  2020  2021 2023 Total
3/3 2/0 3/3 2/1 8/8  8/3  5/5 12/12 43/35

At the same time, the JASDF is hoping to be able to increase the number of UH-60Js retrofiited with in-flight refueling probes.

Completed/Lapsed Aircraft Procurement

Boeing 777-300ER

photo05crs(Photo: JASDF)

Operated from Chitose AB outside Sapporo, Hokkaido Prefecture, the two Boeing 747-400s used to transport the prime minister and members of the imperial family were withdrawn from service in March 2019.

It was announced early in August 2014 that they would be replaced by two B777-300ERs. Taken at San Bernardino, California, a photo of the first aircraft, which was originally due for delivery in autumn 2018, appeared in a Japanese daily newspaper in mid-October 2016. The second aircraft was then set to arrive at the end of 2018, in time to commence full, two-aircraft operations when the 747s are withdrawn. Following a competitive bidding process, the ground support contract was switched from Japan Airlines to All Nippon Airways.

B777-300(Illustration: Cabinet Secretariat)

On April 28, 2015, the Cabinet Secretariat issued a press release that included information on the new colour scheme selected for the two aircraft (above).

Selected from several put forward by Boeing, the basic colour scheme retains the Japanese flag-derived, red-and-white upper surfaces of the B747s and repeats the application of grey to the wings and horizontal tail surfaces. In place of the current staid fuselage cheat-line, the major change is the flowing fuselage stripe. According to the Japan Ministry of Defense, this radical design departure represents ‘the realization of dynamic (economic) growth without fear of change and expresses in design form Japan’s sense of active engagement (in global affairs) in the years to come’.

Although the possibility of detail changes remained, another illustration and a three-view drawing were made available for viewing in pdf format at the Cabinet Secretariat’s Japanese-language website here [link]. 

As things turned out, the first aircraft arrived at Chitose from Switzerland on August 17, 2018 (see Bulletin Board report); the second aircraft followed suit on December 11.

Textron (Cessna) Citation 680A

(Photo: JASDF)

In July 2016, the Air Staff Office issued a request for information from companies interested in supplying and maintaining three of a new type of flight check aircraft and related equipment as a replacement for the YS-11FC and the U-125 tragically lost in an accident in the previous April.

Planned for delivery by the end of March 2021 via Kanematsu Corporation, which acquired the Japanese sales agency rights from Cessna parent Textron Aviation in 2015, the Citation 680A Latitude beat off rival bids submitted in October by Sojitz Corporation (Bombardier Challenger 650) and Mitsui Bussan Aerospace (Dassault Falcon 2000S). An initial two of what were to be designated U-680As received funding under the FY2017 budget; the third did not appear in any subsequent budget. Aside from the Citation’s assessed advantages in terms of performance and price, a major factor acting in Kanematsu’s favour was the company’s 20-year track record of supplying special mission aircraft to the JASDF and its delivery of three Citation CJ4 flight inspection aircraft to the Civil Aviation Bureau, also in 2015.

The December 2018 issue of Kōkū Fan magazine contained a manufacturer-supplied photo of the first aircraft, registered N137A and carrying the number ‘031’ on its nose. (See Bulletin Board report for March 21, 2020.)

One of the pair of U-680As that arrived at Iruma on March 21, 2020, is pushed back into
the Flight Check Group’s hangar.
(Photo: JASDF/Iruma AB via Twitter)

Despite not having featured in any budget procurement information, the third aircraft arrived at Iruma on January 20, 2021. Wearing a Norwegian civil registration, having like its two predecessors been fitted out by Norwegian Special Mission and Sundt Air in Oslo, the aircraft was deployed the following day and made its first flight with its JASDF serial on January 27, 2021.

For the record, the three aircraft are: 02-3031 (ex-N137A, LN-NSM); 02-3032 (ex-N145A, LN-SUA); and 02-3033 (ex-N869QT, LN-TAI). 

Mitsubishi F-2B (Tsunami-Damaged Aircraft Repair Programme)

Repair funds were made available for 13 of the 18 F-2Bs damaged at Matsushima by the tsunami that struck on March 11, 2011. As the type is no longer in production, replacement parts such as flaps were manufactured at Lockheed Martin’s Dallas-Fort Worth facility. Initially, there were plans to repair six aircraft, all of which were delivered back to the JASDF by March 2016. Adding a further seven for a total of 13 aircraft, to be returned to service by the end of March 2018, reduced the cost per aircraft to around 7.3 billion yen (currently around $60 million).

Having been transported by road to Mitsubishi’s Komaki plant in Nagoya, repair work on the selected aircraft did not commence until July 2012. The first repaired F-2B was test flown from Komaki on February 16, 2015, and officially handed over at a ceremony held at the same location on April 21.

F-2B Shinto ceremonyAs tradition dictates on such occasions in Japan, a Shinto priest performs rites and offers prayers at
the April 21, 2015, ceremony held inside Komaki’s No. 4 Hangar.
 (Photo: JASDF)

The handover ceremony was attended by around 120 people, including military personnel and representatives from Fuji Heavy Industries, Ltd., Kawasaki Heavy Industries, Ltd. as well as Lockheed Martin Corporation. The same day, the aircraft was taken by an 8th Sqn pilot on an hour-long ferry flight to its temporary home at Misawa, where some 600 4th Air Wing personnel were waiting. Repairs to the hangars and apron at Matsushima were completed by the end of March 2016.

Following the first flight of the 12th aircraft following repairs in mid-January 2018, the programme was on course for on-time completion.

First repaired F-2BAt Misawa, the 3rd Air Wing commanding officer, Major-General Hirohide Inoue, attaches a
21st Sqn marking sticker to the tail fin of the first tsunami-damaged F-2B to be returned
to service after repair.
(Photo [Apr. 21, 2015]: JASDF, Misawa AB)

A short (no sound) video of the events on April 21, 2015, can be viewed via the JASDF Official Channel on YouTube here [link].

Kawasaki-Boeing CH-47J/LR Chinook

Although a trickle of JGSDF CH-47JA deliveries was maintained up to 2017, JASDF CH-47J orders have remained in long-term abeyance. Prior to that, the most recent of the 31 examples produced for service with Air Rescue Wing units was ordered under FY2010 budget funding and entered service in 2013. Of those 31 helicopters, the last half (since 2002) have all been to long-range (LR) specification standard.

(All photographs on this website are copyright J-HangarSpace
unless otherwise stated.) 

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Notices

Announcements

JASDF
Air Shows in 2024
Jan. 20  Iruma
          (Cancelled)
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

JGSDF
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-
            Utsunomiya  
June 3  Kasumigaura
June 11  Obihiro
July 2  Okadama

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

Nov. 4  Akeno

JMSDF
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

POSTER GALLERY

JASDF 2022

Chitose


Matsushima

Ashiya

Misawa

Komatsu

 Gifu

 Tsuiki

Hyakuri

JASDF 2019

Komaki 2019 poster
Komaki

air-festa-hohu_img2019rs
Hofu

iruma191103(2)rs
Iruma

JGSDF 2022

 Okadama

narashino1ab2019koukahajimers
Narashino 2019
 (paratroop display)

metabaru191006rs
Metabaru
tachikawa191109rs
Tachikawa

JMSDF 2022


Omura


Komatsushima

Tateyama

Tokushima

Ozuki

ozuki191020rs


Ozuki 2019

oomura190519rs

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

Links

Asian Air Arms

The Aviation Historian

Nabe3’s Aviation Pages

Japanese

Japan Association of Aviation Photo-
graphers
(JAAP)

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(Site dedicated to displayed aircraft in Asia)
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