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JASDF Squadron Histories & Markings Part 3

 

This last part of the three-page coverage of JASDF squadron histories covers those elements that are or were designated primarily by role, as follows:

Unit Name Notes
Aggressor Squadron More common name for what is officially the Tactical Fighter Training Group 
Airborne Early Warning Control Group See Part 2, 602nd Sqn
Airborne Early Warning Surveillance Group See Part 2, 601st Sqn and 603rd Sqn
Air Defense Command HQ Squadron 1958–2014 (See under Regional Air Defense HQ Support Flight Groups [Central])
Air Development & Test Wing Formerly Air Proving Group/Wing
  (See dedicated website page) 
Air Rescue Training Squadron Under Air Rescue Wing command
Air Rescue Wing Formerly (1961–71) Air Rescue Group
Air Rescue Squadrons See also Helicopter Airlift Squadrons
Air Tactics Development Wing Formed Aug. 2014, oversees Tactical Fighter Training Group (Aggressor Sqn),
Electronic Intelligence Squadron and
Electronic Warfare Squadron
Air Training Group See Part 2, 23rd Fighter Training Sqn
Air Transport Training Squadron C-46, YS-11 (c.1970–78)
Air Transport Wing 1958–1978
Central Air Defense HQ Support Flight Group 2014– (See under Regional Air Defense HQ
Support Flight Groups) 
Electronic Intelligence Squadron YS-11EB
Electronic Warfare Support Flight 1963–64 (EC-46D)
Electronic Warfare Support Squadron 1964– (EC-46D, YS-11EA, EC-1)
Flight Check Group  
Flying Training School 1954–55
Headquarters Squadron Now Central Air Defense HQ Support Sqn (see
under Regional Air Defense HQ Support Flight Groups) 
Helicopter Airlift Squadrons  Also referred to as Helicopter Air Transport Squadrons
Iruma Squadron See under Kisarazu Squadron.
402nd Sqn command unit 1968–1978
Iwo To Drone Operation Flight UF-104J/JA operations, 1992–97
Kisarazu Detachment 1958–59
Kisarazu Squadron 1959–1968
Kisarazu Training Squadron 1954–55
Miho Detachment 1955–58
Northern Air Defense HQ Support Squadron See under Regional Air Defense HQ Support Flight Groups
Provisional Air Training Flight 1956–58 (See under Regional Air Defense HQ Support Flight Groups [Central])
Provisional Matsushima Detachment 1954–55
Southwestern Air Defense HQ Support Squadron See under Regional Air Defense HQ Support Flight Groups 
Special Airlift Group See Part 2, 701st Sqn
Tachikawa Air Transport Group 1955
Tactical Fighter Training Group Aggressor Squadron
Western Air Defense HQ Support Squadron See under Regional Air Defense HQ Support Flight Groups 

 kh1crs(Photo: JASDF Komatsu AB)

 

Aggressor Squadron

 

Formed Dec. 17, 1981 (Tsuiki, T-2 and T-33A) 
Current Base Komatsu (Air Tactics Development Wing, F-15J/DJ and T-4) 
See under Tactical Fighter Training Group

 

Air Development &
Test Wing

Formed As Air Proving Group:
Dec. 1, 1955 (T-34A at Hamamatsu)
As Air Proving Wing: April 11, 1974
As Air Development & Test Wing: March 1989 
Current Base Gifu (Air Development & Test Command, various aircraft) 
See dedicated page on this website

 

Air Rescue Wing
(and Squadrons)

Formed As Provisional Air Rescue Sqn: Mar. 18, 1958 (Hamamatsu)
As Air Rescue Squadron: Oct. 1, 1958
As Air Rescue Group: July 15, 1961 (Iruma)
Air Rescue Wing: March 1, 1971 
Current Bases (See chart in text below and Helicopter Airlift Squadrons)

1958–1964

The nascent JASDF formed a provisional search and rescue (SAR) unit at Hamamatsu on March 18, 1958, which was granted full squadron status on October 1, 1958. In the meantime, its first mission had been undertaken by an H-19C on July 20. The squadron was divided into three elements: headquarters, training and maintenance.

The following year, 1959, saw the addition of SAR detachments at Chitose (formed February 1) and Komaki (May 15), and the commencement of rescue personnel parachute training with the JGSDF at Narashino, Chiba Prefecture, in late June.

The year 1960 saw the formation of another two detachments, at Nyutabaru in March and Matsushima in September, with the headquarters moving from Hamamatsu to Iruma in between times in July. The following year witnessed the formation of detachments at Komatsu (March 1, 1961) and Ashiya (July 15). The expansion of the JASDF dictated the air rescue organization’s elevation from squadron (Kōkū Kyūnantai) to group (Kōkū Kyūnangun) status on that same day, July 15, 1961.

Following the addition of Iruma (January 25, 1963), each of the then eight detachments was elevated to Air Rescue Squadron (ARS) status on December 1, 1964. New equipment, in the form of the S-62J, had arrived the previous year, the first arriving for deployment at Chitose on August 21, 1963.

T-34A (ARWsite)crsOne of the two fixed-wing types initially used for rescue purposes, albeit only in small numbers, was the
T-34A Mentor. Both the T-34As and the T-6Gs were fitted with underwing attachment points for air
rescue pods, which contained an inflatable rubber dinghy and survival kit. The last T-34A was
withdrawn from ARW use on October 20, 1982.
(Photo [undated]: JASDF Air Rescue Wing)

T-6G (ARWsite)crsKōkū Fan Illustrated No. 108 states that 24 of the 180 T-6Gs supplied to the JASDF saw service with the
ARW; the last was withdrawn from SAR use on March 26, 1969. The pictured example is equipped with
the underwing air rescue pods; also visible are the SAR and homing (SARAH) system antennas. Having
reached the end of its operational career when still officially on the Niigata ARS’s books in March
1970, the aircraft it was placed on display there for at least a decade before disposal.
(Photo [undated]: JASDF Air Rescue Wing)

H-19 (ARWsite)crsOne of the 21 H-19Cs that entered service as the JASDF’s first rescue helicopter between 1957, prior to
the official formation of the rescue organization, and 1961; the first four were purchased direct from
Sikorsky, the remainder were licence-built by Mitsubishi. The operational career of the last example
was brought to an end on March 23, 1971.
(Photo [undated]: JASDF Air Rescue Wing)

IMG_7689crsDisplayed as part of a base history exhibit in a hangar at the Hamamatsu air show in September 2014, 
this photo shows a mishap that befell a rescue H-19C in a field south of the base in the early 1960s.
Happily, having been delivered to the JASDF in July 1959, this aircraft was repaired and remained
in service until January 1973. After a period on display as part of a now defunct private collection
in Gifu Prefecture, this aircraft was returned to Hamamatsu and in April 1999 placed on display
in the JASDF Air Park collection, where it has remained in pristine condition to this day.

That first actual mission, on July 20, 1958, involved the sending of an H-19C to rescue fishermen that had become stranded on a reef on the Atsumi Peninsula, Aichi Prefecture.

Just over a year later, on September 26, 1959, came the first major disaster response missions following the Ise Bay typhoon (Typhoon Vera), one of the most powerful ever to hit Japan. The city of Nagoya bore the brunt of a storm that killed more than 5,000, injured around 39,000 and left an estimated 1.5 million homeless in a severely damaged and extensively flooded city. The rescue effort involved the Air Rescue Training Squadron at Hamamatsu and the then only recently formed Air Rescue Detachment at Komaki. (Selected rescue episodes that have involved individual ARSs are included later, in the squadron histories.)

Organizationally, a system of nine search and rescue regions (SRRs) was put in place on December 24, 1960, to formalize chains of command, improve communications and thus shorten response times. Of those nine, only three were under overall JASDF command; even though having assigned JASDF elements operating in a separate JASDF chain of command, the others were all the responsibility of the JMSDF. At the time of the system’s inception, there were only five JASDF air rescue units. Essentially remaining unchanged until March 2017, when the JMSDF commands were abolished, at its peak the system was as appears below:

  Area of responsibility: Hokkaido Prefecture and surrounding area
1st SRR Command: JASDF Northern Air Defense Force (Misawa)
  ARS(s): Akita, Chitose, Matsushima
  Northern part of Sea of Japan; Pacific Ocean off Sanriku
region (northeastern Honshu)
2nd SRR JMSDF 2nd Fleet Air Wing (Hachinohe)
  Akita, Matsushima
  Eastern Honshu; Tokai, Hokuriku and Kinki regions;
central part of Sea of Japan
3rd SRR JASDF Central Air Defense Force (Iruma)
  Hamamatsu, Hyakuri, Komatsu, Niigata
  Boso Peninsula (Chiba Prefecture);
Ogasawara Islands; Iwo To
4th SRR JMSDF 4th Fleet Air Wing (Atsugi)
  Hamamatsu, Hyakuri
  Southern part of Sea of Japan; Chugoku region
(western Honshu); sea around Shikoku
5th SRR JMSDF 31st Fleet Air Wing (Iwakuni)
  Ashiya
  Kyushu (excluding southern area)
6th SRR Western Air Defense Force (Kasuga)
  Ashiya, Nyutabaru
  Southern Kyushu/seas around southern Kyushu
7th SRR JMSDF 1st Fleet Air Wing (Kanoya)
  Nyutabaru
  Ryukyu (Nansei) and Sakishima island chains
8th SRR Southwestern Air Defense Force (Naha)
  Naha
  East China Sea; waters around Okinawa
9th SRR JMSDF 5th Fleet Air Wing (Naha)
  Naha

The Ashiya, Komatsu and Nyutabaru detachments were drafted in to assist in the relief efforts in the Hokuriku region (Ishikawa, Fukui and Toyama prefectures) during the excessively heavy snowfall of 1963. Bringing in supplies to cut-off communities and airlifting out people in need of medical treatment, the then Air Rescue Group elements were in action from January 27 to March 14.

The period June 16–28, 1964, marked the organization’s first major response to an earthquake and tsunami, which claimed the lives of 36 people and left nearly 400 injured. The Ashiya, Iruma, Komaki, Komatsu and Matsushima ARSs as well as the Hamamatsu-based Training Squadron assisted in the relief efforts that were centred on the city of Niigata.

Liquefaction_at_NiigataNiigata, June 1964. One of the many shocking sights encountered by JASDF helicopter crews during 
relief operations in the city, these apartment buildings had been built on reclaimed land by the
Shinano River and toppled by the effects of the liquefaction triggered by the earthquake.
(Photo via Wikimedia Commons)

H-21 (ARWsite)crsThe seventh of the 10 H-21Bs donated by the U.S. Air Force, the first of which arrived in July 1960; all
entered service that year and were maintained by Shin Meiwa (now ShinMaywa) at the company’s
Itami facility at Osaka airport. Having lost two in accidents, the last of the remaining eight was
retired on Christmas Eve 1966.
(Photo [undated]: JASDF Air Rescue Wing)

S-62J (ARWsite)crsFlying the fifth of the nine colourful S-62Js operated by the JASDF, an ARS crew is put through its paces
on a training flight. Although marking the start of a re-equipment process, the type was not procured
in large numbers due to the shortcomings of its single-engine performance; the last example was
retired on February 25, 1983, 20 years after the type’s service entry. That pictured ended up on
outdoor display close to the main gate at Komaki AB, where it remains to this day.

(Photo [undated]: JASDF Air Rescue Wing)

19651971

The ninth ARS formed at Hyakuri on November 20, 1965. To improve response efforts in light of the lessons learned from the 1964 Niigata earthquake, the Niigata Base Squadron, which had come under the Air Rescue Group umbrella in December 1966, was made a full ARS in October the following year.

A long-term re-equipment programme was initiated in 1967, with ceremonies to mark the handover of the first KV-107II-5 and MU-2S being held on November 21 and December 2, respectively. The first pairings were deployed to Chitose and Komatsu on March 26, 1968, the year in which the Iruma ARS was disbanded (September 7).

Plans for a major reorganization culminated with the Air Rescue Group being given Air Rescue Wing (Kōkū Kyūnantai) status on March 1, 1971. On that day, what were now called the Flight Group (Hikōgun) and the Maintenance Group (Seibigun) came into being, the former’s HQ remaining at Iruma, the latter at Komaki, to where the now Training Group (Kyōikugun) had moved from Hamamatsu-South. The Komaki ARS disbanded on that day but was balanced by the Hamamatsu ARS newly forming as a replacement.

A major operation was initiated on July 4, 1971. The Chitose, Hyakuri and Matsushima units were all sent in search of a Toa Domestic Airlines YS-11 that had disappeared from the radar in bad weather when en route from Okadama to Hakodate the previous evening. Tragically, the aircraft had struck Mt. Yokotsu on the descent into Hakodate, and none of the 68 passengers and crew had survived.

1972–1992

To provide cover from Okinawa following its reversion turn to Japanese sovereignty, a provisional unit was formed at Naha in October 1972 and fully welcomed into the fold almost exactly a year later.

The decade ended with the first joint Japan-U.S. rescue training exercise, which was held in October 1979.

The 70s saw two major operations conducted in search of JASDF aircraft that had crashed into the sea. On May 1, 1973, elements from all four ARSs comprising the 3rd SRR—Hamamatsu, Komatsu, Niigata and Hyakuri—converged on the latter to coordinate efforts to locate and rescue the crew of a Provisional F-4EJ Squadron (the forerunner of the 301st Sqn) that had crashed into the Pacific following an in-flight explosion on a training flight; the pilot was the squadron’s commanding officer. The location was only around 30 nautical miles (55km) off Nakaminato, Ibaraki Prefecture, but both crew members were presumed to have been killed when the search was called off on May 5.

A sea search for another missing JASDF aircraft, this time an F-86F Sabre from the 3rd Sqn during its time under the 81st Air Group at Misawa, was initiated on April 11, 1977. After an initial response by the Chitose ARS, aircraft and personnel from Hyakuri, Matsushima, Komatsu and Niigata as well as Chitose were amassed at Misawa. Sadly, in this case after six days of searching the crash area, around 40 nautical miles (75km) northwest of the Oga Peninsula, Akita Prefecture, no trace of the pilot was found.

Combined ARS Rescue Operations 1981–1991

Date Notes
Jan. 7, 1981

Airlifting supplies and airlifting those stranded
following heavy snowfall in Hokuriku region
Units: Komatsu ARS, Training Sqn
Aug. 12–Oct. 12,
1985

JAL Flight 123 tragedy, Mt. Osutaka, Gunma Prefecture
(Although ARW mobilized, no helicopter rescues could
be conducted)
Aug. 5–6, 1986

Record rainfall from a tropical depression (downgraded
from that year’s Typhoon No. 10) in the Kanto and
Tohoku regions. Flooding in Ibaraki Prefecture after
rivers burst their banks
Hyakuri, Matsushima
Mar. 13–15,
1987

F-15J crashes into Pacific 120 miles (190km) NNE of
Hyakuri. Nothing found after prolonged search
Komatsu, Niigata, Training Sqn
June 29–July 2,
1988
Two Komatsu-based F-15Js crash into Sea of Japan
during training flight. Despite major operation, no
trace found
Komatsu; Hamamatsu, Hyakuri, Matsushima,
Niigata, Training Sqn
Jan. 9–11,
1991
Three groups (total of 12 climbers) get into difficulties
in severe winter conditions in Northern Alps; 10
rescued by ARS, two by Toyama Prefectural Police
helicopter
Komatsu, Training Sqn

The formation in 1992 of the last Chinook-equipped Helicopter Airlift Squadron (see later) at Kasuga added the final piece to the organization that has remained essentially unchanged to this day. (Details of some of the operations that have been carried out after that time will be added in due course.)

DSCF0492crs(Photo [Hofu, July 1994]: Takao Kadokami)

To mark its Golden Jubilee in 2008, the Air Rescue Wing stole the idea adopted for the same event on a service-wide scale four years before. The same commemorative marking, predominantly featuring a blue eagle on the fuselage sides, was applied to one example of each of the types then in service. Teams at Niigata and Chitose prepared a KV-107IIA-5 and a UH-60J, respectively, and Hamamatsu an MU-2A; for some reason, although Hamamatsu provided a U-125A, so did Akita ARS. The likewise specially marked CH-47J was based at Misawa. (A section on markings follows the ARS histories.)

The system of nine search and rescue regions (SRRs), which had been in place since 1960, was streamlined to just four entirely under JASDF command in March 2017.

  Area of responsibility: Hokkaido Prefecture and surrounding area;
northern part of Sea of Japan
1st SRR Command: Northern Air Defense Force (Misawa)
  ARS(s): Akita, Chitose
  Pacific Ocean off Sanriku region (northeastern Honshu) and
Boso Peninsula (Chiba Prefecture); Ogasawara Islands/Iwo To;
northern Honshu; Tokai, Hokuriku and Kinki regions; central
Sea of Japan
2nd SRR Central Air Defense Force (Iruma)
  Hamamatsu, Hyakuri, Komatsu, Matsushima, Niigata
  Southern Sea of Japan; Chugoku region (western Honshu);
sea around Shikoku; Kyushu; southern Kyushu and 
surrounding waters
3rd SRR Western Air Defense Force (Kasuga)
  Ashiya, Nyutabaru
  Ryukyu (Nansei) and Sakishima island chains;
East China Sea; waters around Okinawa
4th SRR Southwestern Air Defense Force (Naha)
  Naha

On June 2, 2018, around 200 top-ranking officers and officials as well as unit members past and present attended a ceremony to mark the 60th anniversary of the ARW at its Iruma headquarters. Representatives from all 11 far-flung outposts were present, as were 16 previous commanding officers and seven members who had received commendations.

ARW 60th(Photo [Iruma, June 2, 2018]: Air Rescue Wing, JASDF)

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

According to official operational data, over the years of its existence the ARW had (as at May 31, 2018) carried out 248 air rescue missions, during which 149 people have been rescued, and been launched to assist in disaster-stricken areas 2,492 times, rescuing 6,693 people, airlifting 1,188 patients and 14,279 personnel in the process.

Air Rescue Wing Operational Data*

SAR 2016 2017 2018 2019* Cumulative*
Missions 1 3 1 1 250
No. rescued 6 1 2 0 151
Disaster Relief          
Missions 24 24 30 5 2,525
Rescuees/patients 14 169 45 4 6,723**
Personnel 195 42 658 4 14,938***
Freight (kg) 56,090 302,547 33,863 55,000 4,636,857
Airlift          
No. of flights 680 597 514 69 23,870
Personnel 14,150 12,768 12,332 1,680 452,370
Freight (kg) 318,971 353,626 237,599 28,727 10,107,809

(*)    Cumulative total as at May 31, 2019 (data from ARW website)
(**)  Of which 3,443 rescuees/casualties following 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami.
         Cumulative total of patients specially airlifted to hospital: 1,206
(***) Of which 3,947 following 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami.

The ARW has not been averse to allowing the visual media access to raise its profile and assist in recruitment. The Hyakuri ARS appeared in the January 2014 TV drama version of the manga SSaigo no Keikan (S–Last Police Officer), but of more direct relation was its appearance as a location for the feature film Sora He (Rescue Wings) in 2008—see the Komatsu ARS squadron history entry—and for the 2013 TV drama Sora Tobu Kōhōshitsu (Public Affairs Office in the Sky).

Also on TV, personnel at Ashiya, Chitose and Matsushima assisted in the shooting of one of the long-running Sekai Ichi Uketai Jugyō (The Most Useful School in World) series of educational variety shows that aired on Nippon TV in January 2016.

The ARW motto, 他を生かすために (hoka wo itasu tame ni), is the second half of that of the U.S. Air Force Special Operations Command pararescuemen—“These Things We Do, That Others May Live”—and also happens to be the title of a long-running series in Kōkū Fan magazine that had reached Part 85 in the August 2019 issue.

jasdfchitoseHP(Photo: JASDF Chitose AB)

************************************

As listed in chronological order below, 12 detachments were formed between February 1959 and March 1987. In Japanese, these were initially designated Kyūnan Bunkentai from February 1, 1959 to November 30, 1964, and Kyūnantai from December 1, 1964, at which time eight were already in existence.

Formed at Hamamatsu on October 1, 1958, an Air Rescue Training Squadron (Kyūnan Kyoikutai) moved to Komaki on March 1, 1971, negating the need for that base to retain its dedicated unit, which disbanded that same day.

JASDF Ashiya MU-2SIn what would have been a welcome sight to many people in distress at sea, an Ashiya-based MU-2S 
makes a low pass as a precursor to the arrival of a KV-107II rescue helicopter.
(Photo [Tsuiki, Nov. 1985]: Takao Kadokami)  

Formation of Air Rescue Squadrons
(in chronological order)
Base As Rescue Detachment  As Air Rescue Sqn
Hamamatsu Mar. 18, 1958* (1) Oct. 1, 1958
(2) Mar. 1, 1971
Chitose Feb. 1, 1959 Dec. 1, 1964
Komaki May 15, 1959 Dec. 1, 1964**
Nyutabaru Mar. 1, 1960 Dec. 1, 1964
Matsushima Sept. 20, 1960 Dec. 1, 1964
Komatsu Mar. 1, 1961 Dec. 1, 1964
Ashiya July 15, 1961 Dec. 1, 1964
Iruma Jan. 25, 1963 Dec. 1, 1964***
Hyakuri Nov. 20, 1965+
Niigata (Base Sqn Dec. 15, 1966) Oct. 25, 1967
Naha Oct. 30, 1972++ Oct. 16, 1973
Akita Jan. 29, 1987+++ Mar. 31, 1987

* As Provisional Air Rescue Squadron
** Disbanded Mar. 1, 1971, due to relocation of training unit
*** Disbanded Oct. 1, 1968
+ Some sources give Feb. 1, 1965
+++ As Provisional Naha Detachment
+++ As Provisional Akita Detachment

IMG_0038crsAn ARW KV-107IIA-5 and UH-60J on a murky day at Gifu in October 2000. A protracted process, the
changing of the guard, by which KV-107II/MU-2A* pairings were replaced by UH-60J/U-125As
acting in concert, was initiated in the early 1990s but not completed until 2009.

Aircraft Operated by JASDF Air Rescue Units
H-19C 1958–1971 H-21B 1960–1966 MU-2S/A* 1967–2008
T-6G 1958–1970 S-62J 1963–1983 UH-60J 1991–
T-34A 1958–1982 KV-107II 1967–2009 U-125A 1995–

* Although generally referred to as the MU-2S, the JASDF operated the type in two versions. Powered by 605 hp TPE-331 engines, the MU-2S was the initial version, while the later (from the 18th aircraft) MU-2A had uprated 665 hp engines. This photo (link) reveals that the wingtip tanks on the Niigata ARS MU-2A nearest the camera are longer than those of the Matsushima ARS MU-2S parked immediately behind. 

AIR RESCUE SQUADRONS IN ALPHABETICAL ORDER BY BASE

AKITA 
(Formed as Provisional Akita Detachment Jan. 29, 1987,
redesignated Akita ARS Mar. 31, 1987)

Akita ARS 25th 2012In 2012, the unit’s 25th anniversary year, the two Akita ARS aircraft overfly Lake Tazawa, the
deepest in Japan, which is used for training exercises.
(JASDF Akita Sub-Base)

After a two-month existence as the Provisional Akita Detachment, which was established on January 29, 1987, by far the youngest JASDF ARW unit was officially given full squadron status on March 31, 1987. Formed to enhance the search and rescue (SAR) cover on that stretch of the Sea of Japan coast and throughout northern Honshu, the unit’s initial equipment—the then standard pairing of an MU-2S and a KV-107II-5—had arrived three weeks before, on March 11.

JASDF Akita ARS MU-2SThe stalwart MU-2 remained in service with the Akita ARS for 15 years. The first MU-2S arrived in
March 1987, and the unit bade farewell to the last example
 of an MU-2A (below) in February 2002. 
(Photos: JASDF Akita Sub-Base)

JASDF Akita MU-2S last fligh

In that first year of operations, missions ranged from reconnaissance flights over forest fires in April and searching for missing persons at a beach swimming area in July and August to rescuing the crew of a trawler that had run aground in November 1987.

The unit’s operations have naturally covered the full gamut of missions normally associated with an SAR unit. Aside from going to the assistance of those in peril on or near the sea, the unit is called upon for more offbeat duties. In January 1989 for example, flights were dispatched to provide situation reports of the mudflow in the vicinity of the crater following signs of volcanic activity on Mt. Chokai in southern Akita Prefecture.

A major operation in the early years resulted in the rescue of a 12-person ski party that had found itself in difficulties on Mt. Nyuto in March 1995.

JASDF Akita KV-107Equipped with the KV-107II-5 and then ‘IIA-5 since its formation, the Akita ARS relinquished its last
example 20 years later, in 2007.
(Photo: JASDF Akita Sub-Base)

In July 1997, the local ARS took part in the Akita Defense Festival. Due to bad weather at Hamamatsu, the planned display by the Blue Impulse had to be cancelled, and so the Akita ARS gave a demonstration of a KV-107II performing a sea rescue instead (link). The landmark Akita Port Tower Selion had been open since April 1994 (link).

In November 2000, Akita ARS took part in the rescue a Misawa-based U.S. Air Force pilot following a collision involving two F-16s during Exercise Keen Sword. In April 2002, the unit was also called upon to assist in the successful rescue of another F-16 pilot, who had ejected after experiencing an engine failure.

In between those incidents, the U-125A was introduced on March 27, 2001, and the MU-2A made its last flight on February 21 the following year. The first UH-60J was supplied on March 22, 2004, and the rotorcraft complement temporarily increased to three with the arrival of another UH-60J on November 1, 2005. The KV-107IIA-5 soldiered on until its last flight, which took place on September 10, 2007; see the Akita entry under JASDF Base Histories.

In late October 2004, the Akita ARS was one of the units that participated in the disaster relief operations that followed a series of earthquakes in the Chuetsu region of Niigata Prefecture. Claiming the lives of 68 people, injuring thousands and forcing 100,000 from their homes, this had been the largest seismic event to strike Japan since the Great Hanshin Earthquake of 1995.

DoJ 2005 Akita ARS(Photo: Japan Ministry of Defense)

An interview with a crew member, Technical Sgt. Yamazaki (above), appeared in the white paper Defense of Japan 2005. When asked about any difficulties he encountered on what was his first disaster relief operation, he replied that his natural sense of unease at his “baptism of fire” was compounded by the lack of detailed information about the affected areas. As many of those in need of rescue were anxious elderly people, the rescue mission took a lot more time than he had expected.

The first steps to extend the radius of helicopter rescue operations by in-flight refueling were taken in the spring of 2009, when there were already plans for the JASDF to add a KC-130H Hercules/UH-60J capability. Major Eiji Sekine of the Akita ARS was one of the first four JASDF helicopter pilots to undergo training with the U.S. Air Force’s 33rd Rescue Squadron at Kadena AB, Okinawa Prefecture. After a day’s ground school, each pilot received two hours of hands-on procedural flight training in daylight on an HH-60G Pave Hawk with the USAF and U.S. Marine Corps providing the Hercules tankers.

It was in 2008 that the Akita ARS started to make the change from the UH-60J’s original yellow and white colour scheme to the blue camouflage scheme. A blogger attending the regional training meet for the Hokkaido and Tohoku block in October of that year photographed the old (link) and the new (link) schemes. The Akita ARS had been involved in another disaster relief operation only four months before, when crews had airlifted to hospital some of those injured by the Iwate-Miyagi Nairiku Earthquake.

The Japanese-language website of Akagi Kougyou Co., Ltd. (http://www.akagi-aaa.co.jp), a Tokyo-headquartered supplier of specialized clothing and other products to the Self-Defense Forces, includes a series of reports on visits made in recent years to air rescue squadrons. That to the Misawa sub-base of Akita, which was then under the command of Col. Takeshi Nakazawa, was made in July 2014.

Although air rescue squadrons normally have a staff of around 80, those at Akita and Niigata have 200 personnel, because their role as self-contained sub-bases necessitates having their own related sections, such as supply, security, accounting and facility management. Whereas ARSs at major bases are able to focus on their rescue role, these two sub-bases are also tasked with performing their own base operations, such as the airlift of personnel and materiel.

The three conjoined prefectures on that stretch of the Sea of Japan coast—Yamagata, Niigata and Akita—rank one to three, respectively, in terms of annual snowfall; in Akita, it is not unusual for it to snow heavily as late as May. The Akagi reporter was informed that conditions can pose problems and take a while to get used to for those unit members born and raised outside Japan’s snow regions.

Akita ARS U-125A in snowDespite the conditions, an Akita ARS U-125A is made ready for departure on a training flight. Keeping 
the runway clear of snow involves the efficient utilization of base personnel and equipment, and the
goal is to finish snow clearing within an hour.
(Photo: JASDF Akita Sub-Base)

As if snow were not enough to contend with, the region has a high incidence of thunder and lightning in autumn and winter. Although a self-contained base, one facility not at their direct disposal is weather radar; meteorological information is provided from the parent base at Misawa and from the adjoining Akita airport.

A page on the Akita Sub-Base website (link) includes no less than 18 interviews with personnel engaged in a wide variety of base occupations. Dating back to November 2013, on the U-125A flight operations side they feature a ground crewman and a radio operator (RO), on the UH-60J side a flight engineer (FE) and rescuer.

According to the unit’s website, as at January 12, 2016, the Akita ARS had been deployed on disaster prevention missions on 106 occasions, and its running total of the number of people rescued stood at 415. A chronological overview of some of the missions conducted in recent years is set out below.

January 5, 2010. The Akita ARS conducts the emergency airlift of a crew member in need of medical treatment from a tanker anchored off the port of Funakawa.

akita18crs

March 2011 (above). The unit is naturally part of the mass mobilization of first responders and disaster relief units in the aftermath of the Great East Japan Earthquake of March 11, 2011. (Photo [Mar. 13, 2011]: JASDF Akita Sub-Base)

akita19crs

October 7, 2011. Rescues avalanche victims on Mt. Iwate in neighbouring Iwate Prefecture. (Photo: JASDF Akita Sub-Base)

akita21crs

March 2, 2012. A child suffering from pneumonia following a liver transplant is emergency airlifted from Akita airport to a specialist hospital in Tokyo. (Photo: JASDF Akita Sub-Base)

akita22crs

February 21, 2013. At the request of the Japan Coast Guard (JCG), which had received a distress signal, the Akita ARS scrambles both its UH-60Js. In an operation coordinated with the Niigata ARS, the unit rescues the 12 crew members (three South Korean and nine Chinese nationals) of a Cambodian-registered freighter who were drifting in a life raft 300 kilometres off Sado Island, Niigata Prefecture. (Photo: Japan Ministry of Defense)

March 15–18, 2013. An aerial search is made for a powered glider that had taken off from Memanbetsu airport, Hokkaido Prefecture, and failed to arrive at its destination, Shikabe airfield. On the morning of the third day of the search, the crew of an Akita ARS UH-60J spots the wreckage of the glider on Mt. Satsunai in the Hidaka mountain range and rescues its two former occupants.

January 31, 2014. An urgent medical case arises on board the Panamanian-registered chemical/oil tanker Southern Dragon while at anchor off the port of Funakawa. Bad weather forces back a JCG helicopter launched from Sendai and, as a result, the Akita ARS receives a request from the JCG to immediately scramble a UH-60J. The medical case, a Filipino crewman, is winched aboard and airlifted to Akita airport.

akita25crs

December 23, 2014. A Panamanian-registered vessel ends up beached eight kilometres south of the port of Sakata, Yamagata Prefecture. The initial rescue mission involves JCG aircraft from Niigata and Sendai air stations, but this plan has to be abandoned due to the snow clearing status at both bases and poor weather en route. Consequently, Akita ARS dispatches a U-125A and UH-60J and airlifts 10 of the vessel’s 18-man crew, all of whom are from Myanmar, to safety at Shonai airport, Yamagata Prefecture. The other eight are rescued by the Yamagata Prefectural Disaster Prevention Aviation Unit. (Photo: JASDF Akita Sub-Base)

akitaARSairlift151020crs

October 20, 2015. Due to the deteriorating condition of an already hospitalized infant suffering from a congenital disease, the Akita Prefecture governor grants permission for an emergency airlift. An Akita ARS UH-60J is dispatched to convey the patient direct to a specialist medical facility in Tokyo. (Photo: Japan Ministry of Defense)

akitaARSrescue160110crs

January 10, 2016. The Panama-registered cargo ship City runs aground on a breakwater close to Miyaumi beach in the city of Sakata, Yamagata Prefecture, and the numbers involved in the ensuing rescue operation require that the Akita ARS U-125A and a UH-60J work in concert with a JCG helicopter. All 18 of the ship’s Russian and Bangladeshi crew are hoisted to safety without injury, 10 of them being picked up by the Akita ARS UH-60J. (Photo: Japan Ministry of Defense)

hutto3crsThe pilots of an Akita ARS UH-60J receive the thumbs up from a ground crew member at the start of
exercise Cope Angel 17 at a rainswept Misawa AB on August 9, 2017. Their brief for this 
simulated mission involved the recovery and return to Misawa of a downed pilot.

(Photo: U.S. Air Force/Staff Sgt. Melanie A. Hutto, 35th FW Public Affairs)

October 18, 2017. Tragically, a Hamamatsu ARS UH-60J crashes into the sea around 30 kilometres south of its base when on a night training exercise on the evening of October 17. The Akita ARS is among the JASDF and JCG elements that continue an ultimately fruitless search for survivors from the four-man crew through to the afternoon of the following day.

April 9, 2019. As the accident occurred within its operational area, the Akita ARS was naturally one of several units involved in the search for the pilot of an F-35A that crashed while on a night training flight from Misawa. The first pieces of wreckage were recovered by an Akita UH-60J crew just over two hours after the accident.

JASDF Akita ARW namahage(Japan Ministry of Defense/JASDF)

For its marking, the squadron adopted the bogeyman-like namahage of local folklore. On New Year’s Eve, fake knife-wielding masked men dressed as namahage are invited to make house-to-house visits in a (for some) terrifying search for lazy or badly behaved children. This to Western eyes hardly positive image for a search and rescue unit gained credence in 2018 when UNESCO added the namahage in the city of Oga, Akita Prefecture, to its tourism-boosting intangible cultural heritage list. (Namahage have been on the Japanese list of now more than 300 Important Intangible Folk Cultural Properties since 1978.)

More befitting of the Akita ARS is the namahage’s association, since time immemorial, with the bestowing of blessings to ward off calamities in all their forms. In having chosen this deep-rooted local symbol, the thinking was that the unit, long before the UNESCO listing, could assist in handing down this aspect of local culture from generation to generation. As described on the unit’s website, the two colours on and around the face, red and blue, symbolize mutual cooperation among the unit’s various elements in safely carrying out its mission.

AKITA ARS SPECIAL MARKINGS

May-September 2008, Air Rescue Wing 50th Anniversary  U-125A 12-3017 (link) (link)
To mark its Golden Jubilee, the Air Rescue Wing stole the idea adopted for the same event on a service-wide scale four years before. The same commemorative marking, predominantly featuring a blue eagle on the fuselage sides, was applied to one example of each of the types then in service. For some reason, although Hamamatsu provided a U-125A, so did Akita ARS.

akita7a(25thanniv)(Above and below) Not surprisingly, the Akita ARS’s namahage marking featured prominently in the
design selected for the unit’s 25th anniversary in 2012.  Another view of the U-125A can be
found here
(link)(Photos: JASDF Akita Sub-Base)
Akita UH-60J 25th

October 2017 30th Anniversary/Aviation Day  U-125A 12-3017 (link) /
UH-60J II 68-4600 (link)
Held the day after the official base 30th anniversary ceremony, the Aviation Day event enabled members of the public to get a close look at the markings, which had resulted from an intrasquadron call for design ideas. The winning design primarily comprised a hatahata, a species of sandfish for which Akita is famous, with blue waves. Also on the U-125A’s fuselage were a yellow flash and the words Air Rescue AKITA in blue, while the inscription 30th Anniversary in red outlined in white and a namahage mask (link) had been added to the tail; its engines also sported two blue waves (link).

The UH-60J II had had the inscription and mask applied to its tanks, and the fuselage markings were grouped together on the rear of the cabin fuselage (link). To make them stand out against the dark blue camouflage scheme, the fish and waves had been changed to white.

JASDF Akita poster 2018The ARW motto featured prominently on the poster used to publicize the 2018 open house event.
Poor weather on the day limited the flying display to a UH-60J rescue demonstration,
which can be viewed on YouTube
(link). (JASDF Akita Sub-Base)

ASHIYA
(Formed as Ashiya Rescue Detachment July 15, 1961,
redesignated Ashiya ARS on Dec. 1 1964)

DSCF5277crs(Photo [Ashiya, Oct. 1978]: Takao Kadokami)

IMG_0003Crs(Above and below) The MU-2S and KV-107A-5 resident with the Ashiya ARS in late September 2000
IMG_0007crs

Following the U.S. government’s complete return of Ashiya to Japanese control at the end of 1960, a JASDF air rescue detachment (the sixth) was formed at the base on February 1, 1961, the same day that the Air Rescue Squadron in overall command was re-designated the Air Rescue Group. Full ARS status came to the Ashiya unit on December 1, 1964. Its 120 personnel were initially provided with four T-34As, two H-21Bs and an H-19B.

T-34A Ashiya JASDFThe nascent JASDF’s initial fixed-wing SAR aircraft was the T-34A Mentor. This example was 
photographed at Ashiya in March 1973.
(Photo: Akira Watanabe)

During its early years, Ashiya H-21Bs were unfortunately involved in two major accidents that resulted in multiple fatalities, the first suffered by the air rescue units. The first, which claimed 10 lives, occurred in thick fog in the mountains near the town of Takuma, in the Mitoyo district of Kagawa Prefecture, on March 16, 1963. On September 10 the following year, eight of the 11 occupants were killed when the helicopter came down in a rice field in the Kasuya district of Fukuoka Prefecture.

Ashiya ARS Early Rescue Episodes

Date Notes
May 14, 1967 Goes to assistance of trawler in difficulties off Onga river
estuary, Fukuoka Prefecture, four crewmen rescued
Feb. 14, 1969 Trawler capsize, five rescued
July 11, 1970 Rescues two fishermen from Hakata Bay, Fukuoka Prefecture

DSCF5384crs(Photo [Tsuiki, Nov. 1987]: Takao Kadokami)

Changes were made to its assigned fixed-wing aircraft in 1968 (arrival of the first MU-2S) and 1971 (T-34A retirement). By the time the last MU-2A was retired in 2002, the unit had previously operated three types of helicopter—the H-21B (1961–68), the H-19B (1961–71) and the S-62J (1968–71)—and the fourth, the KV-107IIA-5, was to bow out the following year. The current equipment, the UH-60J and U-125A, commenced operations in June 2001 and May 2002, respectively.

Ashiya ARS 50th annivAt the time of its 50th anniversary in March 2012, the unit had 84 personnel and was equipped with
two U-125As and three UH-60Js.
(Photo: JASDF Ashiya AB)

kunren_3crsAs part of ongoing readiness training, an Ashiya-based UH-60J hovers above the
helicopter deck of the JMSDF
Murasame-class destroyer Akebono during a
joint exercise in July 2012.
(Photo: JASDF Ashiya AB)

When the Akagi Kougyo company visited in July 2013, the emergency airlift from the remote island of Mishima was happening roughly once every two months, the Ashiya ARS having assumed the mantle previously worn by the JMSDF’s Ozuki Rescue Flight prior to its move to Omura in Nagasaki Prefecture.

As at December 15, 2017, the Ashiya ARS had been dispatched on 267 disaster-relief missions; as at July 15, 2011, the figure stood at 238, plus 52 air rescues. Typical examples of the missions that the unit has undertaken in recent years include the following:

June 2010. Airlift of five people from the tiny island of Yakatajima, off the city of Saiki, Oita Prefecture.

January 2011. The search for a Cessna that had departed Kumamoto airport on the evening of January 4 ends with the discovery of wreckage in the mountains near Ozu. The accident claimed the lives of the doctor private pilot and his wife.

March 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake. The Ashiya ARS is drafted in to assist with SAR, airlift and reconnaissance operations during disaster relief operations.

In the course of 2013 is called upon to airlift seven hospital cases in Yamaguchi Prefecture; seven from the island of Mishima to Hagi, and one from Mishima to Hofu. (Had airlifted 18 and four cases, respectively, in the period 2008 to 2012.)

September 1, 2015. Joins in search for the crew of a fishing boat, one of six that have capsized on the same day, off Tsunoshima, Yamaguchi Prefecture. The ship’s captain is rescued, but no trace of the rest of the crew is found.

April 2016. In the aftermath of a series of earthquakes that struck Kumamoto, the Ashiya ARS undertakes reconnaissance missions and the airlift of water and other essential supplies.

December 7, 2016. Assists in the search for a U.S. Marine Corps pilot who is found to have lost his life when he ejected from his F/A-18 Hornet off Tosashimizu, Kochi Prefecture, during a night exercise.

July 2017 Heavy Rainfall in Northern Kyushu

saiha-b2crsAn Ashiya crew lands in the Ono district of Hita, Oita Prefecture, to assess the situation after the area was
cut off by severe flooding and landslides caused by torrential rainfall. The unit comes to the assistance of
a total of 78 people during the course of this operation.
(Photo: JASDF Ashiya AB)

saiha-b8crsDuring the same rescue operation, another Ashiya crew sets down to await orders in the
Ibome district of Asakura, Fukuoka Prefecture.
(Photo: JASDF Ashiya AB)

October 22, 2017. In response to a request made by the Yamaguchi prefectural governor to the commander of the Ashiya-based 3rd Technical School, a UH-60J is dispatched to airlift a patient from the JASDF Mishima Sub-Base to the Kozoe River Park and hospitalization in Hagi.

ashiya171022crs(Photo [JASDF Mishima Sub-Base, Oct. 22, 2017]: JASDF Ashiya AB)

April 9, 2018. An Ashiya-based UH-60J is used to gather damage information on the areas affected by an earthquake that strikes Shimane Prefecture.

December 6–11, 2018. Ashiya U-125A and UH-60J crews work in conjunction with their ARS counterparts at Hamamatsu and Nyutabaru as well as with the Japan Coast Guard and U.S. and Australian units in a protracted and extensive search operation. Five crew members of a U.S. Marine Corps KC-130J were declared missing after a nighttime midair collision with an F/A-18 Hornet south of Cape Muroto, Kochi Prefecture; only one of the latter’s two-man crew survived. The search was finally called off early on December 11.

ASHIYA ARS SPECIAL MARKINGS

July 1994 JASDF 40th Anniversary ‘Dragon’  UH-60J 28-4556 (photo below) 

H60-28-4556-Hyakuri-JUL94crs(Photo [Hyakuri, July 1994]: Akira Watanabe)

November 1998 Ashiya Airshow Camouflage Scheme  KV-107IIA-5 14-4831 (link)
In what appears to have been an imitation of the camouflage applied to a Komatsu ARS KV-107II for a TAC Meet in 1989 (q.v.), this temporary scheme was applied when the Ashiya ARS participated in a joint U.S.-Japan air rescue training exercise.

Although its unit is not known, KV-107IIA-5 24-4833 had previously been seen in a low-visibility colour scheme, but with an object-defeating white “last three” on its nose, at Iruma in 1995 (link).

Feb.-Mar. 2012 Ashiya ARS 50th Anniversary U-125A 52-3001 (link) / UH-60J 18-4592

Ashiya ARS badgeTaking its inspiration from the unit’s tiger marking ( (left, from the Ashiya AB website), the unusual “exploded” design used for the U-125A (link) featured a tiger’s face, front paws and claws as well as ‘Ashiya’ in between the small fuselage windows. Having formerly adopted a cartoon design incorporating a drum (link) from the local Kokura Gion festival—the ‘6’ on the drum being a reference to the 6th Rescue Zone of which Ashiya ARS was then a part—the current marking was influenced by two paintings that had been placed at the entrance to Kokura Castle in the early 1960s. The engine intakes featured the silhouettes and years in service of the unit’s three fixed-wing types: T-34A (1961–1971), MU-2 (1969–2002) and U-125A (2002–).

  Ashiya UH-60J 50th anniv(Photo: JASDF Ashiya AB)

Surprisingly, J-HangarSpace has been unable to find any detailed images of the specially marked UH-60J (above). Held on March 3, 2012, the base anniversary ceremony was featured in the May 2012 issue of the now defunct Air World. The article shows that this aircraft also carried silhouettes, in this case in white of the helicopter types the Ashiya ARS has operated alongside their years in service. The inscription ‘50th Anniversary’ (in red and yellow, respectively) was carried on the fuel tanks.

Ashiya U-125A TsuikiAn Ashiya ARS U-125A in standard markings
(Photo [Tsuiki, Oct. 2012]: ‘Amayagan’ via Wikimedia Commons)

 CHITOSE
(Formed as Chitose Rescue Detachment Feb. 1, 1959,
redesignated Chitose ARS Dec. 1, 1964)

photo16crsA Chitose-based U-125A deploys a signal flare canister specially designed for airdrops during maritime
rescue operations. Weighing 7kg (around 15lbs), this type is made by a Tokyo-based company
called Hosoya Pyro-Engineering.
(Photo: Japan Ministry of Defense/JASDF)

In the case of Chitose, nearly six years were to elapse between its formation as the first JASDF’s air rescue detachment on February 1, 1959, and its re-designation as an air rescue squadron December 1, 1964. It was during that time, on July 15, 1961, that its parent organization changed its name for the first time, from Air Rescue Squadron to Air Rescue Group.

In the meantime, the unit had recorded the rescue organization’s first, fortunately non-fatal accident, when an H-19C came down in the Saru district of Hokkaido Prefecture after hitting a tree on August 7, 1962.

The Chitose unit seems to have developed something of a tradition for being the first to operate a new type. This was the case with the S-62J (August 1963), MU-2/KV-107 (at same time as Komatsu, March 1968) and U-125A (March 1996).

Three Chitose-based JASDF pilots were lucky to survive a collision between their F-104J and T-33A near Rumoi, Hokkaido Prefecture, on April 26, 1967. Not only did they manage to eject safely, they also survived parachuting down into a snowcapped mountain range. Two pilots were rescued by their colleagues from the Chitose ARS, the other by the U.S. Army.

Chitose ARS Mission Episode

Date Notes
June 25, 1979 Rescues one crew member from 302nd Sqn F-4EJ crew about
an  hour after he had ejected over the sea off Cape Erimo,
Hokkaido Prefecture. (Other crew member picked up by
JMSDF S-61A from Hachinohe) 

Thirty years after that first accident, in July 1992, the unit received its first UH-60J, but tragedy was to strike on December 2, 1994, when an aircraft of this type crashed on Mt. Yurappu. The ill-fated crew, all five of whom perished, had been en route to the island of Okushiri on an emergency patient airlift mission.

In the early hours of November 13, 2004, strong winds forced the 5,500-ton South Korean freighter Marine Osaka onto a breakwater at Ishikari port, prompting the Chitose ARS’s involvement in a major combined JASDF-Japan Coast Guard rescue operation. According to reports, of the 16-man crew from South Korea and Myanmar, eight were rescued from the water and seven from a cabin ladder as the ship broke up, but tragically six of them were later confirmed to have lost their lives.

A photo in a report in the July 2009 issue of Kōkū Fan magazine shows that, as at March 10 in that its 50th anniversary year, the Chitose ARS had rescued 43 people on 43 air rescue missions and 389 people in the course of 198 disaster relief missions; a cumulative total of 175 emergency airlift missions had also been carried out. As at April 1 that year, the unit had surpassed 25,200 accident-free flying hours. Coinciding with the anniversary, a monument inscribed with the Japanese for “Lest We Forget”—and including one of the joysticks from UH-60J ’554—was erected in the entrance lobby of the squadron building in memory of the crew members who had lost their lives in the line of duty in the 1994 accident.

The vast majority of Chitose ARS operations involve the emergency airlift of patients and casualties to hospital. For example, the Air Rescue Wing website outlines eight missions in 2018 and five in the first three months of 2019 alone; all of the missions in 2018 and two of those in 2019 involved the use of a U-125A, a type that first entered service with the unit in March 1996.

180406chitosecrsA Chitose-based U-125A is used to airlift an emergency hospital case from Hakodate airport to
Okadama airport. 
(Photo [Apr. 6, 2018]: Japan Ministry of Defense/Air Rescue Wing)

From September 6 to October 14, 2018, the Chitose ARS worked in conjunction with the Iruma- and Misawa-based heavy-lift helicopter units in responding to the Hokkaido Eastern Iburi Earthquake.

CHITOSE ARS SPECIAL MARKINGS

August 1979 Chitose Airshow ‘Superman’  KV-107II-5 04-4814
The second photo here (link) shows an early example of a special marking applied for publicity purposes.

August 2007 Chitose AB 50th Anniversary   U-125A 52-3023 (link) (link) / UH-60J 38-4557 (link)

ChitoseU-125AOkadama141007(100yenviaWC)(Photo: 100yen via Wikimedia Commons)

As reported in the October 2007 issue of Kōkū Fan magazine, the specially decorated Chitose ARS U-125A (above) made a big impression, at little cost to the taxpayer, at that year’s air show. The aircraft carried cut-out sticker versions of the base’s 50th anniversary Hokkaido map emblem on its fuselage and of the official logo on its tail; ‘Hokkaido’ appeared on a stripe at the top of the tailfin. An otherwise standard yellow UH-60J had the logo badge towards the rear of green-painted tanks and the earlier version of the unit badge, a map of Hokkaido carried in a sling, towards the front.

June-December 2008 Air Rescue Wing 50th Anniversary  UH-60J 48-4559
The Chitose ARS’s contribution to the combined efforts that produced no less than six aircraft decked out in the same scheme. The aircraft in question is seen here (link) at its home base in August 2008 and here (link) at Niigata in December 2008.

April/August 2009 Chitose ARS 50th Anniversary  U-125A 52-3002 (link) / UH-60J 18-4574 (link)
Befitting of the Chitose ARS’s 50th anniversary, an aircraft of each type was decked out in a striking colour scheme in time for the official ceremony, which was held in April 2009. The unit badge had newly had the face of an owl—to be exact a Blakiston’s fish owl, a species native to Hokkaido—and a red cross, showing Chitose’s location, added within the map of the island prefecture. Both aircraft carried the silhouette of an owl in white on their tails.

UH-60J photo22crsThe UH-60J that was specially painted for the Chitose ARS 50th anniversary in standard markings.
(Photo: Japan Ministry of Defense/JASDF)

August 2019 Chitose Airshow  Chitose ARS 60th Anniversary
                                    U-125 42-3022 / UH-60J 48-4580 (Video at [link]) 

CJU125190804(Photos: CJ @armingarea1836)
CJUH60J190804

HAMAMATSU
(Provisional ARS formed Mar. 18, 1958;
ARS (1) formed Oct. 1, 1958; ARS (2) formed Mar. 1, 1971)

IMG_0308crsThe last JASDF KV-107IIA-5 in a typical pose during its final display at Iruma on November 3, 2009.
Delivered to the service early in March 1987, the aircraft had been on a sayonara tour in 2009 and
completed its final air rescue display at its Hamamatsu base four days before, on October 30.

IMG_7692crsThe first KV-107II for Hamamatsu, a KV-107II-5, arrives at the base in 1971. This aircraft was destined
to be written off while assigned to the Komatsu ARS in May 1978.
(Photo: JASDF Hamamatsu AB)

Hamamatsu was the setting for the formation of the JASDF’s sole Rinji Kyūnan Kōkūtai (Provisional Air Rescue Squadron) on March 15, 1958. Dropping the “provisional” title, the squadron was joined by a newly formed Kyūnan Kyoikutai (Air Rescue Training Squadron) and a maintenance unit on October 1 that year. The base thus assumed overall command of the air rescue set-up, but this was to be a short-lived responsibility as the headquarters functions were relocated to Iruma on July 1, 1960.

All air rescue detachments having been re-designated as squadrons on December 1, 1964, after an absence of nearly 11 years today’s Hamamatsu ARS was formed as a knock-on effect of the relocation of the Air Rescue Training Squadron from Hamamatsu to Komaki on March 1, 1971. The ousted former Komaki squadron moved in the opposite direction that very same day, on which the Air Rescue Group was itself renamed the Air Rescue Wing.

One of the unit’s pilots was killed and another injured when their T-6G crashed in the mountainous district of Minamisaku in Nagano Prefecture on September 22, 1965.

A mere six months or so after regaining its front-line rescue role, on October 22, 1971, the Hamamatsu ARS received its first KV-107II to start the replacement of its S-62Js, and deliveries to the unit of the more capable successor to the T-34A, the MU-2S, commenced in February 1972. The last Hamamatsu-based S-62J was retired on December 19, 1974, but the T-34A was to soldier on until April 27, 1982.

An article in the July 2007 issue of the Japanese magazine Aireview reported that, in the 36 years from its formation to January 2007, the unit had carried a total of 25 rescue missions and been desptached on disaster relief missions on 149 occasions. A brief overview of those missions in the early 2000s mentioned in the article appears in tabular form below.

Year Mission/Event
2001 Related to previous year’s evacuation of Miyake Is., part of the Izu Island chain, after volcanic eruption
  Earthquakes in Shizuoka, Aichi and Yamanashi prefectures
2002 South Korean ship sinking off Omaezaki, Shizuoka Prefecture
  Search for light aircraft in Yamanashi Prefecture
  Sea search off Maisaka, Shizuoka Prefecture
2003 Ship sinking off Kushimoto, Wakayama Prefecture
2004 Chubu Earthquake (Mie Prefecture)
  Chuetsu Earthquake, flooding (Niigata Prefecture)
  JGSDF AH-1S accident
2005 JGSDF OH-6D accident
2006 Post-earthquake reconnaissance, Atami, Shizuoka Prefecture
  Search for swimmer off Niihama, Ehime Prefecture

The unit conducted its last MU-2A/KV-107IIA-5 demonstration flight on October 5, 2008, the MU-2S then making its last flight on the 22nd of that month. The first UH-60J had arrived on February 21, 2007.

IMG_0916crsA Hamamatsu ARS crew puts a UH-60J through its paces at the Shizuhama base air show in May 2012.

As part of its long-running series on people who risk their lives at work, News Tokyo featured another UH-60J pilot, flight group commanding officer Major Shigeru Ootagaki, in an article in 2015. He was one of the pilots scrambled in response to the massive eruption of Mt. Ontake on September 27, 2014, which claimed the lives of more than 60 people and injured around 70.

Although it had been a fine day on the mountain, which straddles Gifu and Nagano prefectures around 200 km (120 miles) west of Tokyo, the eruption of smoke and vapour had rapidly changed the scene to worse than white-out conditions. Normally, the Hamamatsu ARS is responsible for the area from Mie Prefecture to Kanagawa Prefecture, the area around Tokyo being the responsibility of Hyakuri ARS in Ibaraki Prefecture far out to the east.

Having made straight for the summit area to airlift out one casualty, the extrication had to be completed in double-quick time due to the double threat posed by the steam still being expelled and by the volcanic ash that would have serious consequences if ingested by the engines. Ootagaki said that the combination of the distance from base, the extreme conditions and the difficulties in controlling the helicopter at its performance limits made for an operation that wore down nerves.

That was the only mission flown to Mt. Ontake, as the article describes the ARSs as saigo no toride (“the last bastions”), meaning their more advanced helicopters operate strictly in support of local government helicopter rescue and police units on land and of the Japan Coast Guard at sea. Hence the number of such missions undertaken by the ARSs in a year is small but likely to be extreme in nature, when the civilian units’ helicopters are unavailable due to operational reasons, cannot cope with the conditions or are already stretched to the limit.

Torrential rainfall and flooding on September 10, 2015, initially involved a major mobilization of JGSDF units but resulted in a Hamamatsu ARS UH-60J working alongside a U-125A and UH-60J from the Hyakuri ARS. That very day, a special rain warning was issued in parts of Ibaraki Prefecture and the situation deteriorated when the Kinu River burst its banks. Operating in the Motoishige district of the worst-hit city of Joso until sunset, the crews succeeded in airlifting 90 stranded people to the safety of a park area. A repeat performance from sunrise to sunset the following day increased the total number of people airlifted to 141 before two days on standby in bad weather was followed by the ARS operation being called off on September 13.

Hamamatsu UH-60J pilotInterviewed on the Air Rescue Wing website in 2017, 2nd Lt. Yūta Nozaki said that he had just qualified 
as a pilot when called upon to fly one of the Hamamatsu-based UH-60Js during the flood rescue 
efforts in Joso, Ibaraki Prefecture, in September 2015. In the interview, he describes the sense 
of achievement he derived from seeing the relieved expressions on the faces of those he  
and his crew had brought to safety.
(Photo: JASDF Air Rescue Wing)

Sadly, the Hamamatsu ARS’s recent history has been overshadowed by the loss of the crew that was flying the second of the JASDF’s modernized UH-60J-IIs on October 17, 2017, during a training exercise involving the wearing of night vision goggles (NVG). A search operation was set in motion after radar contact was lost only 10 minutes after departure, and flotsam found that same night, but it was not until an underwater search and salvage operation was conducted in November and December that the bodies of three of the four crew members and the wreckage of the aircraft, complete with its flight data and cockpit voice recorders, could be recovered. Published in a press release issued on February 14, 2018, the combination of factors that led to the accident was found to have been insufficient confirmation of the aircraft’s altitude and sink rate due to loss of spacial awareness (the pilot in command had decided to descend to avoid clouds barring the route), poor intracrew communications and, crucially, the distracted pilots taking no action in the 45 seconds from the radio altitude alert sounding at around 250 feet and the aircraft impacting with the sea.

On January 30, 2018, a funeral service was held at Hamamatsu AB for the four who had lost their lives: pilots Maj. Akihiro Hanafusa (42) and Maj. Hideaki Sugimoto (46), flight engineer Tech Sgt. Takanobu Yoshida (40), and rescuer Staff Sgt Masafumi Inoue (32).

In June 2017, the Hamamatsu ARS had successfully participated in two typical operations. On June 13, acting in response to a request from the Japan Coast Guard’s 5th Region, a U-125A and UH-60J were instrumental in airlifting an emergency case from a ship lying nearly 300 nautical miles (600 km) off Cape Shionomisaki, Wakayama Prefecture. On June 25, a U-125A was launched to gather damage assessment information following an earthquake that had struck the city of Iida, Nagano Prefecture, earlier that morning.

In the early hours of December 6, 2018, Hamamatsu U-125A and UH-60J crews worked in conjunction with their ARS counterparts at Ashiya and Nyutabaru as well as with the Japan Coast Guard and U.S. and Australian units in a protracted and extensive search operation. Five crew members of a U.S. Marine Corps KC-130J were declared missing after a nighttime midair collision with an F/A-18 Hornet 55 nautical miles (100 km) south of Cape Muroto, Kochi Prefecture; only one of the latter’s two-man crew survived. The search was finally called off early on December 11.

U-125A JASDF HamamatsuHamamatsu ARS U-125A crew members at the “office”. Underneath the unit insignia, the blue
blue sticker commemorating the JASDF’s 60th anniversary dates this photo in 2014.

(Photo [Hamamatsu, Oct. 2014]: Andy Binks)

HAMAMATSU ARS SPECIAL MARKINGS

June 1994 Experimental Grey Colour Scheme  MU-2S 23-3226 (link)
Although seen at the Komatsu airshow, this unusually painted aircraft was assigned to the Hamamatsu ARS.

March 2001 Hamamatsu ARS 30th Anniversary   KV-107IIA-5 54-4836 (link)

October 2004 JASDF 50th Anniversary   KV-107IIA-5 04-4852 (link)
According to 50th Anniversary of JASDF (Bunrindo, 2005), a five-man team started work on applying the special colour scheme on June 9, 2004, and finished around two weeks later. By chance, the last of the 52 KV-107IIs delivered to the JASDF happened to be assigned to the unit at that time.

The plan was to mark the JASDF’s 50th anniversary by painting one example of each the five types then in ARS service (including a KV-107IIA-5, despite its gradual retirement, and a Helicopter Airlift Squadron CH-47J) in a common colour scheme. The concept of the winning design, chosen from the 140 suggestions received, involved painting the tails of the aircraft navy blue, grey and white in sequence from the rear forward to symbolize sea, sky, and cloud, respectively. In the case of the KV-107II, the colour sequence was carried over to the sponsons. An ARW eagle heading out on a rescue mission was depicted on the tail and the ARW badge on the rear fuselage had five white stars added in an upward-pointing arc underneath to symbolize the five aircraft types.

The other ARSs involved in this project were Komatsu (UH-60J), Matsushima (U-125A), and Niigata (MU-2A) as well as the Iruma Helicopter Airlift Squadron (CH-47J). Thus only an official commemorative sticker was applied to a Hamamatsu MU-2A (link).

May-June 2008 Air Rescue Wing 50th Anniversary MU-2A 63-3228 (link) (link) /  U-125A 12-3016
For this important milestone, a distinctive blue eagle design was applied to a Hamamatsu-based MU-2A, which did the rounds of other JASDF bases in the run-up to its retirement that October. Hamamatsu also contributed a U-125A to match that provided by the Akita ARS; this photo (link) shows the aicraft on takeoff from Niigata in August 2008. Other aircraft, such as this U-125A (link), merely carried a 50th anniversary badge for the duration.

March 2011 Hamamatsu ARS 40th Anniversary   U-125A 82-3008 (link) (link)
The unit having adopted Mount Fuji as its badge, this formed the basis of its 40th anniversary colour scheme. The design doffs a cap to the artist Hokusai’s 1830s woodblock print The Great Wave off Kanagawa from Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji. The base name was applied in yellow on the engines.

October 2011 Hamamatsu Air Festa   UH-60J 18-4574 (link) (link)
                                                                 U-125A 52-3002 (link) (link)
This was the year in which the Great East Japan Earthquake had claimed many lives and wreaked havoc in the Tohoku region as well as triggerrd the tsunami that culminated in meltdowns at the Fukushima nuclear power plant. The UH-60J thus carried the encouraging slogan がんばろう! 日本 (Ganbarō! Nippon, Hang in There Japan!) on both sides of its fuselage. The Mount Fuji design was blue on the left side and red on the right; note the base name on the fuel tanks. The U-125A had variations on the slogan theme and the base name in hiragana script はままつ on its engines. Other views of both aircraft can be found here (link).

HYAKURI
(ARS formed Nov. 20, 1965)

akubicyandesu Twitter(Photo [Hyakuri, June 2019]: : Yūsan@akubicyandesu via Twitter [link])

This the eighth unit to form adopted the mimizuku (horned owl) as its squadron marking to symbolize its day and night rescue operations.

Officially coming under the command of the then Air Rescue Group on November 20, 1965, Japanese sources state that an air rescue squadron was formed at Hyakuri on February 1 that year. Throughout the occasional changes to its command structure, the most recent being the Air Rescue Wing’s transfer from Air Support Command to come under the direct control of Air Defense Command in March 2013, the squadron has remained a permanent fixture at Hyakuri.

In its formative years, the unit experienced its share of flight safety concerns. The crew of an H-19C that came down in Lake Kitaura, Ibaraki Prefecture, on February 2, 1967, were lucky to escape unhurt, and it was a Hyakuri-based T-34A that crashed in the mountains of Kitaibaragi on August 25, 1969.

ARW T-34A HyakuriAn ARS T-34A on the flight line at Hyakuri in late October 1972; the nose of the first MU-2S built is
just visible in the background.
(Photo: Akira Watanabe)

MU-2S Hyakuri 1985Fast forward 13 years, and a Hyakuri ARS MU-2S is seen making its way along the
taxiway in June 1985.
(Photo: Akira Watanabe)

Recent operations have included the involvement of a U-125A and UH-60J from the Hyakuri ARS in the major four-day operation that followed torrential rainfall and flooding in September 2015 (as related in the Hamamatsu ARS section). In August the following year, the unit was called upon by the Japan Coast Guard to assist in the search for the four occupants of a pleasure boat missing off the coast of Choshi, Chiba Prefecture.

IMG_0331crsA Hyakuri-based U-125A undergoes maintenance checks at Iruma in November 2009.

The Hyakuri ARS assisted in the making of the TV drama adaptation of Hiro Arikawa’s prize-winning novel Soratobu Kōhōshitsu (Public Affairs Office in the Sky), which aired for 11 episodes in 2013.

HYAKURI ARS SPECIAL MARKINGS

July 1994 JASDF 40th Anniversary  MU-2S 13-3211 (link) / KV-107IIA-5 74-4825 (link)
Both aircraft sported chic green fuselage stripes, with an eagle marking on the tail.

October 1997 Air Rescue Wing 40th Anniversary  MU-2A 23-3226
Although hard to make out, the MU-2A in this shot (link) taken at the 1997 Hyakuri airshow carries the badge designed for the 40th anniversary of the ARW.

October 2015 Hyakuri ARS 50th Anniversary (link) (link
                                                                            U-125A 12-3018 / UH-60J 08-4572

123018u12550th(Above and below) The design carried on both sides of the specially marked U-125A’s fuselage in
2015 comprised the unit badge of a horned owl, with its wings spread flying through red and
pink plum blossom, above a pink-shadowed white ’50th anniversary’.
(Photos: David Cook)
The same design was carried by the UH-60J (link), with the wording applied to the fuel tanks.
123018u12550thtaxi

hyakuriTwitter190528crs(Photo: JASDF Hyakuri AB)

IRUMA
(Detachment formed Jan. 25, 1963, ARS disbanded Oct. 1, 1968)

In the musical chairs-like base changes in the JASDF’s formative years, Iruma assumed overall command of the air rescue organization when the HQ functions were moved from Hamamatsu on July 1, 1960.

Its own short-lived, initially detachment-level unit formed on January 25, 1963, and was upgraded to squadron status along with the others on December 1, 1964, only to be disbanded less than four years later.

Tragically, on September 15, 1964, only five days after the loss of Ashiya-based personnel in an H-21B crash, all six men on board an Iruma H-19C were killed when their aircraft came down in a rice field in Iwatsuki (now part of Saitama City), Saitama Prefecture.

KOMAKI
(Detachment formed May 15, 1959, ARS disbanded and relocated to Hamamatsu Mar. 1, 1971)
Komaki Air Rescue Training Squadron
(Formed Mar. 1, 1971) 
 UH-60J ItachiviaWC2006A Komaki-based UH-60J in the earlier yellow-and-white colour scheme inherited from its
predecessor, the KV-107II. 
(Photo [Komaki, Oct. 2006]: ‘Itachi’ via Wikimedia Commons)

S62-63-4776-Komaki-13AUG80crsPrevious generations of JASDF rescue helicopter at Komaki were the S-62J (above, photographed in
August 1980
) and KV-107II (below, July 1994). (Photos: Akira Watanabe)
KV107-64-4841-Komaki-29AUG94crs


KomakiTrnqSqn180303(HuninivaiWC)In 2021, Komaki will likely be marking its half-century as home to the Air Rescue Wing’s training
element, which should prompt the design of a special aircraft marking.

(Photo [Komaki, March 2018]: Hunini via Wikimedia Commons)

KOMATSU
(Detachment formed Mar. 1, 1961,
redesignated ARS Dec. 1, 1964)

Komatsu U-125A WCcrsThe dropping of rescue equipment, in this case a survival kit, forms a regular part of the U-125A display
at Komatsu air shows.
(Photo [Sept. 2014]: 藤谷良秀 (Yoshihide Fujiya?) via Wikimedia Commons)

The fifth unit to form, that at Komatsu adopted as its emblem the mask from kagajishi, the name by which the traditional lion dance is known locally in Kanazawa, Ishikawa Prefecture.

Surprisingly, J-HangarSpace has been unable to ascertain the exact date of an incident involving a Komatsu ARS S-62J. The aircraft is pictured looking very sorry for itself sitting on the water but with its tail completely sheared off in Kōkū Fan Illustrated No. 108 (p. 61). The photo caption puts the time as ‘late fall in the mid-1960s, soon after the S-62’s deployment’ and gives the location as Imaegata, a stretch of water close to the Komatsu base that was later reclaimed for agricultural use. The story goes that the crew were practising water landings when the tail boom came into contact with the lake’s surface.

Komatsu ARS Mission Episodes

Date Notes
Feb. 21, 1966 Rescues 12 crew members from cargo ship that had run
aground at Maisaka in city of Hamamatsu, Shizuoka Prefecture
Oct. 19, 1970 Rescues two fishermen stranded on rock wall near
Saruyama lighthouse, Wajima, Ishikawa Prefecture

On October 29, 1969, the crew flying the JASDF’s second KV-107II-5 were lucky to escape unscathed after crash landing on the Komatsu runway.

On May 11, 1978, another KV-107II-5 crew had a narrow escape. They were sent on a late afternoon mountain rescue mission to to pick up five climbers who had become incapacitated due to fatigue near the summit of Yarigatake, on the Nagano-Gifu prefectural border. As reported in the August 1978 edition of the Japanese magazine Aviation Journal (link), the aircraft was caught in turbulence and toppled over onto the roof of a mountain lodge. Its two fuel tanks and of course rotors were ripped off on impact and that part of the lodge’s damaged, but the four-man crew and those in the building were unscathed. The sad coda to this story is that another helicopter ended up being sent the following day to retrieve the bodies of the five climbers who had since perished.

MU-2SkomatsuNov94(schleiffert)(Photo [Komatsu, November 1994]: Rob Schleiffert)

First broadcast in 2006, a 13-episode TV anime series set in an air rescue squadron was entitled Yomigaeru SoraRescue Wings; the Japanese part of the title could be translated as ‘reanimated sky’.

For publicity and recruitment purposes, three ARS bases (Hamamatsu, Hyakuri and Komatsu) were used to shoot scenes for the follow-up 2008 live action film simply called Rescue Wings. As mentioned in the 2009 edition of the white paper Defense of Japan, the film starred the young actor Yūko Takayama as a UH-60J rescue pilot. (Although there have been women UH-60J pilots in the JMSDF, it remains an area of JASDF operations into which women have yet to make inroads.)

rescuewings(2009DoJ)Preparing to shoot a scene at Komatsu during the filming of Rescue Wings in 2008.
(Photo: Japan Ministry of Defense)

In June 2014, Komatsu ARS crews underwent their first helicopter air-to-air refuelling (HAAR) training mission over the Sea of Japan with the U.S. Air Force’s 353rd Special Operations Group (SOG).

osakabe1crsSomewhere over the Sea of Japan, Komatsu ARS crews participate in their first daylight HAAR training
in June 2014
(above) and prepare for their first nighttime training in June 2017 (below). Part of  Teak 
Jet, a joint combined exchange training exercise, the latter also called for crews to don night vision
goggles when formating with an MC-130H Combat Talon II of the U.S. Air Force’s 353rd SOG.
This was the first night HAAR training for Japanese mainland-based JASDF UH-60J crews.

osakabe9crs(Photos: U.S. Air Force/Yasuo Osakabe, 374th AW Public Affairs)

Staying on the subject of joint U.S.-Japan training, the Komatsu ARS participated in the training exercise Keen Sword 2015, which was held in November 2014. The air rescue/natural disaster training missions also involved a US-2 from the JMSDF’s 71st Fleet Air Squadron and elements from two U.S. Air Force rescue squadrons, the 33rd RS from Kadena AB in Okinawa and the 212th RS from Eielson AB, Alaska. The Komatsu ARS also took part in the Cope North Guam exercises in both 2016 and 2017.

KeenSword2015Participants pose for a photo call at Komatsu at the start of the four-day joint U.S.-Japanese training
exercise
Keen Sword 2015.  (Photo [Komatsu, Nov. 16, 2014]: Japan Ministry of Defense)

Elsewhere in this section are links to photos of various camouflage schemes that have occasionally been applied to air rescue aircraft, either on an experimental basis or for a specific temporary purpose. In 2016, two Komatsu-based U-125As appeared in a dark-blue scheme—similar to that of the UH-60Js—for the combat search and rescue (CSAR) mission, for which they were also equipped with aircraft survival equipment, including a wingtip-mounted missile warning system and fuselage-mounted chaff/flare dispensers.

U-125AKomatsu170602(Z3144228viaWC)Following the first flight of a U-125A specially equipped for the CSAR role on April 10, 2016
(see Bulletin Board), this second aircraft appeared that July.
(Photo [Komatsu, June 2017]: Z3144228 via Wikimedia Commons)

In June 2017, the Komatsu ARS worked with its counterparts at Niigata in locating the wreckage of a Cessna 172 that had struck and slid partway down Mt. Shishidake in Toyama Prefecture in poor visibility, killing all four occupants.

Other recent search and rescue operations include the launch of a U-125A and UH-60J to gather damage assessment information in the aftermath of the earthquake that struck northern Osaka Prefecture on June 18, 2018.

Komatsu ARS190116(Photo: Japan Ministry of Defense)

On January 16, 2019, the unit also received a request from the Japan Coast Guard to send aircraft to assist the eight-man crew of a trawler (above) that had run aground off the port of Wajima, Ishikawa Prefecture. According to the Ministry of Defense press release detailing events, the U-125A took off at 06:17 and the UH-60J around 10 minutes later, the actual rescue commenced soon at 07:08, and all the trawler’s crew had been safely airlifted back to a baseball ground in Wajima (below) for onward transport to hospital at 07:43.

Komatsu 190116(2)(Photo: Japan Ministry of Defense)

On the night of May 1, 2019, the first day of the new Reiwa era, a U-125A and UH-60J were sent to coordinate and execute the airlift to Komatsu airport of a sick crew member from a container ship 60 nautical miles (30 km) off the Noto Peninsula. The following day, a glider made an emergency landing on Mt. Yake, about 20 miles (32 km) west of Matsumoto airport, Nagano Prefecture, which resulted in a two-aircraft Komatsu team again working in conjunction with a Niigata UH-60J crew.

190503komatsucrsTaken near the successful conclusion of a rescue operation on May 3, 2019, this photo has circles to
indicate the Komatsu ARS UH-60J and the two survivors of a gliding incident on Mt. Yaki in
the Northern Alps.
(Photo: JASDF Air Rescue Wing)

KomatsuU-125A180917(HuniniviaWC)A Komatsu-based U-125A carries the badge proclaiming the Air Rescue Wing’s 60th anniversary;
see Bulletin Board entry for June 2, 2018.
(Photo [Komatsu, September 2018]: Hunini via Wikimedia Commons)

KOMATSU ARS SPECIAL MARKINGS

KV107-84-4826-Komatsu-25JUL86crsStrictly for static display purposes only, a Komatsu ARS KV-107IIA-5 was decorated with Doraemon
cartoon characters at the base’s summer event in July 1986. (Photo: Akira Watanabe)

November 1989 Special Camouflage Schemes  
       KV-107IIA-5 94-4827 (link) (link) / MU-2A 13-3209 (link)
A KV-107IIA-5 was given a special camouflage scheme (link) for the 1989 TAC Meet, only for bad weather to result in the event’s cancellation. An MU-2S had been given an experimental camouflage scheme in time for that year’s airshow in June and was still in the scheme in November; the experiment might have eventually influenced the colours adopted for the U-125As.

October 2004 JASDF 50th Anniversary  UH-60J 98-4569
This was one of the five aircraft given a common colour scheme (see Hamamatsu ARS).

September-October 2011 Komatsu AB/Air Rescue 50th Anniversary  
      U-125A 52-3003 (link) / UH-60J 88-4587 (link) / (Photos of both aircraft can be found here [link].)
The U-125A initially only had an intricate tail marking of a grey kagajishi lion dance mask. This was joined by the UH-60J, again with a lion dance mask design on its tail, the post-Great East Japan Earthquake slogan meaning “Hang in There Japan!” on the side of the fuselage, beneath 航空自衛隊 (JASDF), and KOMATSU AIR BASE 50th Anniversary on the left fuel tank and KOMATSU AIR RESCUE 50th Anniversary on the right. The U-125A also went on to have KOMATSU AIR BASE 50th Anniversary added on its left engine and KOMATSU AIR RESCUE 50th Anniversary on the right.

March 2012 Komatsu Air Rescue 50th Anniversary  UH-60J 08-4590 (link)
By the following spring, a different UH-60J was wearing the same markings, minus the fuselage slogan.

MATSUSHIMA
(Detachment formed Sept. 20, 1960,
redesignated ARS Dec. 1, 1964)

uh-60j(rs)The Matsushima ARS has been operating the UH-60J since the arrival of its first example, on
March 11, 1999, and thus had been operating the type for exactly 12 years when
disaster struck in 2011. (Photo: JASDF Matsushima AB)

Today’s Matsushima ARS was the subject of a two-part article in the long-running That Others May Live series in the June and July 2016 issues of Kōkū Fan magazine.

A defining moment in the unit’s recent history came on March 11, 2011, when the base was engulfed by the tsunami triggered by the Great East Japan Earthquake. Whereas all the base personnel were able to seek refuge, all the ARS’s aircraft were affected to some degree. The two U-125As and four UH-60Js that were damaged beyond economic repair naturally included the duo on standby out on the alert apron; the force of the water wrought havoc, shunting those aircraft corralled inside hangars into each other or up against the walls.

Normally, the coastal base lies around seven feet, or just over two metres, above sea level. Although the tsunami was to reach a recorded height of more than 34 feet (10.3 metres) in the city of Higashi-Matsushima, just under a mile (1.5 km) inland, the flood depth at the base reached up more than 10 feet (3 m), in other words 17 feet (5 m) above sea level.

The following day, some ARS personnel were temporarily airlifted by CH-47J to Iruma. On March 13, others were moved either to Hyakuri to come under the command of the resident Hyakuri ARS or to Misawa, where an advanced guard from the Chitose ARS had been deployed.

Their aircraft being out of commission, the remaining personnel fulfilled their disaster relief role using Zodiac boats, for example ferrying residents to a local school that, as is the case all over Japan, doubles as a designated emergency evacuation centre. As the ARS’s former ground floor operations room had been devastated, they moved to that upstairs in the building formerly used by the 22nd Sqn, which had been vacant since that unit’s disbandment in 2001. It was from there that efforts to clean up and return the base and the unit to full operational status were coordinated; it was to be March 2016 before the resident 21st Sqn’s F-2Bs came back to the fold and everything was back in its proper place.

During a visit made in November 2012, personnel from the Akagi Kougyo equipment company learned that Herculean efforts had resulted in the runway being declared operational again on March 15, the Matsushima ARS following suit five days later. Two UH-60Js were flown in from other units on March 21, these being used on three concerted sweep searches for victims along the coast (April 1–3, April 10, and April 25–26) in between disaster relief and reconnaissance operations, which were officially declared at an end on August 31, 2011.

It was to be April 2013 before a rudimentary tented hangar was erected on the (now raised) apron to facilitate on-site maintenance; up to that time, helicopters due for maintenance work had simply been replaced. The first part of the Kōkū Fan article also mentions the opening ceremony, held on December 2, 2015, to mark the opening of the new administration building and hangar, which incorporate safety features based on the lessons learned from that fateful day. Pride of place in the administration building is given to a wooden frame, in which are mounted the manufacturer construction plates from the six ARS aircraft lost to the tsunami.

Originally the fourth such unit to form, on September 20, 1960, the Matsushima Rescue Detachment was sent on its first full-fledged mission, an air rescue, on December 13 that same year.

history3A Matsushima H-19C flying in the vicinity of its home base
(Photo [date unknown]: JASDF Matsushima AB)

The now ARS suffered its first loss of an aircraft on April 25, 1968, when its first S-62J crashed in the Tome district of Miyagi Prefecture, a month to the day after its arrival. Although the aircraft was written off, fortunately all the crew survived. The year 1968 also saw the curtain fall on T-6G operations (on November 30).

history4The ill-fated first S-62J to be assigned to the Matsushima ARS at its handover 
ceremony, March 28, 1968.
(Photo: JASDF Matsushima AB)

history5The first Matsushima-based KV-107II-5 arrived on Valentine’s Day (February 14), 1970, a fitting date
for an aircraft type that would be held in great affection for more than 30 years.
(Photo [KV-107IIA-5]: JASDF Matsushima AB)  

history6The first of the KV-107II’s initial partner aircraft, the MU-2S, arrived on February 6 of the  
following year, 1971. The slow phase-out of the later MU-2A commenced with the 
arrival of the first U-125A, on March 9, 2000
. (Photo: JASDF Matsushima AB)

V107-84-4803-Matsushima-18JUL75crsThe pair of KV-107II-5s based at Matsushima basking in the sun in July 1975. The noses of the pontoon
tanks were later painted black. Another photo evocative of the time, taken that same month, shows an
MU-2S
(link) in front of the Matsushima ARS building, where the unit’s flag is proudly
fluttering in the breeze.
(Photo: Akira Watanabe)

As time passed, the milestones of first 5,000 and then 20,000 accident free flying hours were passed on June 4, 1973, and February 3, 1983, respectively.

Matsushima ARS Mission Episode

Date Notes
Feb. 20, 1975 Rescues all 20 crew from Philippines-registered vessel that
had run aground and broken into two on Enoshima, an
offshore island in Miyagi Prefecture

The then new administrative block was completed on April 1, 1980, in time for the unit 20th anniversary celebrations on September 20 of that year. A new hangar eventually came on line in March 1994; these structures were destined to be ravaged by the 2011 tsunami.

history7The Matsushima ARS was drafted in to assist with relief operations after the Yoshida River in Gifu 
Prefecture burst its banks following a typhoon in 1986. During the course of the operation, the unit
plucked 14 people from the roofs of houses.
(Photo [August 5, 1986]: JASDF Matsushima AB)

IMG_0005crsA Matsushima ARS UH-60J moves towards the takeoff point in the shimmering heat of the July 2002 base
airshow. All four types of the current and outgoing generation of rescue aircraft were present that day.

history12Disaster relief operations in the aftermath of the Iwate-Miyagi Nairiku Earthquake, which struck on
June 14, 2008, included the rescue of passengers from an overturned bus.

(Photo: JASDF Matsushima AB)

Operations in recent years have included the following:

July 6, 2015. Following communications with the JASDF’s 4th Air Wing at Matsushima, an ill crew member is airlifted off the U.S. Coast Guard cutter Mellon that is then around 380 nautical miles (700 km) off the island of Kinkasan, Miyagi Prefecture. The U.S. Coast expresses its gratitude in a letter received a few days later.

matsushima160413crs(Photo: JASDF Air Rescue Wing)

April 13, 2016. (Above) Having launched the standard pair of aircraft at the behest of the Japan Coast Guard’s 2nd Region, a Matsushima ARS UH-60J crew airlifts and brings back to base an injured seaman from a Chinese-registered vessel 168 nautical miles (310 km) off Kinkasan.

May 2, 2018. The Miyagi Prefecture governor having formally lodged the request for despatch with the 4th Air Wing, a U-125A crew transports a patient from Matsushima AB to Kobe airport.

May 24, 2019. The request again having come from the Japan Coast Guard’s 2nd Region, a U-125A and UH-60J are launched to coordinate and effect the airlift as well as bring back to base a crew member from a ship lying 220 nautical miles (400 km) off the coast of Miyagi Prefecture.

Matsushima underline(Photo: JASDF Matsushima AB)

MATSUSHIMA ARS SPECIAL MARKINGS

The Matsushima ARS selected as its emblems two symbols that are closely connected with Matsushima: the pine tree, as the pine-clad islands of the area are famous for having been designated one of the three most scenic places in all of Japan, and the drums of the local former Date han (feudal domain). These can be expected to feature in any design to mark the unit’s 60th anniversary in 2020.

badge1(MARS)(Image from Matsushima ARS website)

The Matsushima ARS website contains more information on the badge itself (above). Designed by a squadron member in 1974, the design comprises four green pine islands to evoke the name Matsushima, which means pine island. Based on the pattern found on the drums of the Sendai han, the three 巴 (tomoe, a comma-shaped heraldic design) signify the 3rd Rescue Zone, for which the Matsushima ARS is responsibility. The upper and lower green bands are the drum fasteners, firmly binding together the pine trees and drums with the encompassing Air Rescue Wing and Matsushima, conveying the meaning of banding together and working for a common cause in fulfilling their mission.

July 2004 JASDF 50th Anniversary  U-125A 12-8017 (link) (link)
This was one of the five aircraft given a common colour scheme (see Hamamatsu ARS). The colours being a good match for the standard scheme, the design was probably conceived with the U-125A in mind. The contours of the aircraft resulted in the light blue extending onto the front of the engine nacelles, the white as far as the radome.

August 2010 Matsushima ARS 50th Anniversary  U-125A 02-3013 (link) / UH-60J 38-4578 (link) (link)

MatsushimaU-125AatRJST100822(C9asngfviaWC)(Photo [Matsushima, August 2010]: Cp9asngf via Wikimedia Commons)

The fuselage sides of the U-125A and UH-60J were emblazoned with a long yellow streamer scarf caught by one of the strong winds that are characteristic of the climate in Matsushima. Carrying the word Anniversary, the scarf was worn by Cyborg 009, a creation from anime artist Shōtarō Ishinomori (1938–1998) who hailed from Miyagi Prefecture.

50thanniv(MARS)crsNicely positioned in between the observation windows on both sides of the U-125A was the 50th
anniversary design, intended as a sign of gratitude to the local people, comprising a map of the
prefecture with a red “we are here” star indicating Matsushima.
(Photo: Matsushima ARS)

badge2(MARS)(Image: Matsushima ARS)

Carried on both forward doors, the Matsushima ARS 50th anniversary badge (above) enclosed the wording That Others May Live, the Air Rescue Wing’s motto. According to the official concept explanation, the outer ring of the “tyre” is said to embody the meaning of safe landings after carrying out missions; the white centre the Japanese flag, to evoke an awareness of “peace, prosperity and justice.” In an even more obscure reference, the yellow crescent moon on the right side of the outer ring is taken from the shape of the crest on the helmet worn by regional feudal ruler Masamune Date (1567–1636).

MatsushimaUH-60JatRJST100822(C9asngfviaWC)(Photo [Matsushima, August 2010]: Cp9asngf via Wikimedia Commons)

U-125A 02-3013 was one of the two U-125As and 38-4578 one of the four UH-60Js written off March 11, 2011, when caught in the tsunami at Matsushima.

NAHA
(Formed as Provisional Naha Det. Oct. 30, 1972,
as ARS Oct. 16, 1973) 

jasdfgalleryU-125A(8)crs(Photo: Japan Ministry of Defense/JASDF)

Following Okinawa’s reversion to Japanese sovereignty in 1972, no time was lost in establishing a Provisional Air Rescue Squadron, which came into being on October 30 that year. Reorganisation as the far-flung 10th full ARS reporting to the Air Rescue Wing was marked with a ceremony almost exactly a year later, on October 16, 1973. (This fine shot [link] of a Naha-based MU-2S was taken in that first year.)

Naha ARS Mission Episodes

Date Notes
Nov. 18, 1977 Rescues 28 crew from South Korean cargo ship in
difficulties 50 nautical miles (90km) off Okinawa
Jan. 16, 1983 Airlifts suspected appendicitis case from trawler 280
nautical miles (520km) south of Okinawa
May 5, 1984 Rescues eight from U.S.-registered, ocean-going yacht
that had run aground at Cape Kyan, Okinawa Prefecture

The departure and some in-flight footage of a Naha-based MU-2A and KV-107IIA-5 can be found in this undated six-minute YouTube video (link).

KVCopeAngel(2)crsThe crew of a Naha-based KV-107IIA-5 picks up a “survivor” during the Cope Angel search and rescue
exercise held in October 1980. The long-running biannual exercise involved U.S. elements from
Kadena AB, but the venue was switched for the first time to Misawa in 2017.

(Photo: Tech. Sgt. Michael E. Daniels/USAF via National Archives and Records Administration [NARA])

The four decades-old scene above may have been repeated numerous times during Cope Angel exercises, but in recent years the Naha ARS has twice come to the rescue of U.S. Air Force F-15C pilots, on May 28, 2013, and June 11, 2018. On both occasions, they had been forced to eject over the ocean while serving with the resident 44th Fighter Squadron at Kadena.

event marking180611rescueThe Naha ARS turns out in force for the late June 2018 visit by U.S. Air Force Kadena AB personnel
marking the successful rescue of the pilot who had ejected earlier that month. During an official
ceremony nine Naha ARS members received citations in grateful recognition of their efforts.
(Photo: JASDF Naha AB)

Details of other more typical operations can largely be gleaned from the record kept on the Air Rescue Wing’s website. These include regular hospitalization case airlift flights either from outlying islands in the Okinawa chain or from passing merchant ships. A selection of examples follows.

Dec. 15, 2015. A Naha ARS UH-60J answers an emergency call, relayed by the then JASDF Southwestern Composite Air Division HQ, from the Marshall Island-registered bulk carrier Luminous Nova, at the time under way around 450 nautical miles (830 km) to the southeast of the Okinawan capital. Suspected of having suffered a stroke, a 60-year-old Filipino crew member is airlifted to hospital.

Dec. 17, 2015. Two days later, a seriously ill Russian crew member from the Antarctic expedition icebreaker Akademik Shokalskiy is airlifted back a similar distance to hospital in Naha.

naha160418(Photo: JASDF Air Rescue Wing)

April 18, 2016. (Above) At around 14:20 that afternoon, The Naha ARS obtains initial mission information from the Japan Coast Guard’s 11th Region, relayed via the JASDF Southwestern Composite Air Division HQ. Following receipt of an official Coast Gurad request for a flight to be despatched and the simultaneous order being given by the JASDF commander, a U-125A and UH-60J are launched at 16:10. They are sent to the aid of an injured Filipino crew member on board the Panama-registered liquefied natural gas tanker Pacific Notus. As the ship is then 300 nautical miles (560 km) off Ishigaki, the casualty is airlifted to a hospital on that island.

naha160612(Photo: JASDF Air Rescue Wing)

June 12, 2016. (Above) The usual two aircraft work in concert to bring an injured crew member from a squid fishing vessel from around 160 nautical miles (300 km) out at sea to hospital in Naha.

November 9, 2018. The line of communication from the Japan Coast Guard to the (since 2017) Southwestern Air Defense Force results in the crews of a U-125A and UH-60J being tasked with the rescue and airlift to Naha of four people adrift near the outlying island of Hate-jima.

naha190308(Photo [taken at Naha AB]: JASDF Air Rescue Wing)

March 8, 2019. (Above) On this occasion it was the Okinawa prefectural governor who authorized the emergency airlift of a patient from Shin-Ishigaki airport to Naha for treatment.

In June 2019, the Air Rescue Wing website was carrying an interview with a Naha-based U-125A pilot, Capt. Tsubasa Hasegawa, himself aptly named as in written form his first name means ‘flight’, in spoken form ‘wings’.

U-125A JASDFcrs(Photo [Naha, October 2014]: Andy Binks)

The U-125A’s role is to spearhead the rescue mission, proceeding quickly to the scene to confirm weather conditions and pinpoint the exact location of the person or persons in need of rescue. Having guided in the UH-60J, during the actual rescue the U-125A acts as a communications relay. The aircraft is also used to perform damage assessment reconnaissance flights in the event of a natural disaster.

There are three possible paths to becoming a U-125A pilot: aviation cadets, who can take an exam after graduating from high school; National Defense Academy flying personnel; or those who take the exam after graduating from a general university. Having been awarded their wings, those on the U-125A stream naturally have to take a rescue pilot course on the type with the Training Squadron at Komaki.

nahaARShasegawacrsCapt. Tsubasa Hasegawa (Photo: JASDF Air Rescue Wing)

In Hasegawa’s case, he had already developed a general interest in rescue operations at high school when TV news coverage featuring the Chitose ARS’s involvement in a major rescue mission (the South Korean freighter Marina Osaka tragedy of November 2004) pointed him in the direction of a specific career. Undergoing part of his training in the United States, he enjoys working in the low-altitude environment of an SAR pilot.

NAHA ARS SPECIAL MARKINGS

December 2002 Naha ARS 30th Anniversary  KV-107IIA-5 04-4852 (link) (link) (link)
The design featured the Naha ARS badge of a shisa—the traditional lion dog-like figure from Ryukyuan (Okinawan) mythology, itself derived from Chinese guardian lions—holding an injured young hawk. A variation on this theme can likely be expected for the unit’s golden jubilee in 2022.

October 2012 Naha Airshow  U-125A 32-3003 (link) / UH-60J 08-4590 (link)

jasdf naha event(691)The U.S. Air Force pilot rescued in June 2018 receives a souvenir photo when visiting Naha AB to express
his gratitude. The airmen on the right are holding aloft the Naha ARS flag of a
shisa, the mythological
figure incorporated into the design of the 30th anniversary KV-107IIA-5 in 2002.

(Photo: U.S. Forces Japan/Kadena AB)

pair(ARWhp)crsThe photo that was presented to the U.S. Air Force pilot shows two of the aircraft assigned to Naha ARS
in 2014, as evidenced by the dark blue 60th anniversary badges.
(Photo: JASDF Air Rescue Wing)

NIIGATA
(Base Squadron formed under Air Rescue Group Dec. 16, 1966;
ARS formed Dec. 15, 1967)

jasdfgalleryUH-60J(3)niigatacrsThe Niigata ARS has operated the UH-60J since the arrival of the first of the type on February 16, 2007.
(Photo: JASDF)

Coincidentally, while writing this section in Saitama Prefecture at 22:22 on the evening of June 18, 2019, gentle tremors were felt. These were very quickly reported to have been caused by a major earthquake off the coast of Yamagata Prefecture, which mainly affected the castle city of Murakami, population 60,000, in northern Niigata Prefecture.

The first SDF element to arrive at the scene was a pair of 6th Air Wing F-15Js that took off from Komatsu on a reconnaissance mission at 22:39. Part of the mobilization of a steady stream of aviation assets from all three SDFs that formed an initial response, a Niigata-based U-125A and UH-60J were the last to be deployed, taking off at 23:25 and 23:34, respectively. The Niigata Sub-Base itself naturally served as a hub during the operation. On this occasion, thankfully only 26 people were injured, and there were no fatalities.

Niigata is, however, somewhat prone to earthquakes. That in June 1964 triggered a tsunami that killed 28 and devastated the city’s port area. In more recent times, the Chuetsu Earthquake in October 2004 and the Chuetsu Offshore Earthquake in July 2007 claimed 68 and 15 lives, respectively. 

photo10niigatacrsHooked up as safety demands to a static grounding point, a Niigata ARS U-125A sits on the tarmac at
its home base. The unit took delivery of its first example of the type on June 28, 2006.
(Photo: JASDF)

The JASDF presence at Niigata dates back to the formation, on March 1, 1958, of a detachment under the then Provisional Central Command Centre reporting to Air Group Command HQ. The Niigata Detachment was transferred to the 4th Air Wing on July 15, 1961, but soon changed hands and came under Central Air Region command as the Niigata Base Squadron on March 15, 1962. This came under the Air Rescue Group umbrella on December 15, 1966, and became the Niigata ARS on October 25, 1967.

Niigata ARS Mission Episodes

Date Notes
July 30, 1969 Rescues three from five crew on two Niigata University
yachts that capsized off Hiyoriyama in city of Niigata
Nov. 30, 1971 Night rescue of all 48 crew members from Liberian-
registered tanker Juliana that had run aground in
strong winds and broken into two, also at Hiyoriyama
Sept. 27–29, 1975 Works with prefectural rescue team on ground to locate
and rescue two climbers in the Asahi mountain range
on Niigata-Yamagata border
Nov. 3, 1981 Rescues 12 from the Dragon III, a Panama-registered
cargo ship, off Sado Island
Apr. 3, 1984 Airlifts supplies to village of Iwafune-asahi that was
cut off by heavy snow

A low point in the unit’s more recent history came on the afternoon of April 14, 2005, when all four crew members were killed in an MU-2A that crashed on the northwest slopes of Mt. Mikagura during a search and rescue (SAR) training flight. Attempts to contact the aircraft continued 30 minutes after the last communication, and so it was more than hour before a search was initiated. Having first spotted a wingtip fuel tank, it was a Niigata UH-60J crew that discovered the wreckage and had the sombre task of enabling the official formalities to be carried out back at base.

The wreckage was retrieved from the site on June 4 and transported to Komaki. The aircraft had amassed 6,280 flying hours in the 18 years since its delivery as the last of its type in January 1987 and had 1,330 airframe hours remaining.

The findings of the accident investigation, released on October 7 that year, cited excessive bank angle as having contributed to the aircraft stalling at a height that did not permit recovery. To prevent any recurrence, the investigation recommended thorough reviews of crew coordination procedures and elements of SAR flight operations combined with re-training on the MU-2A’s low-speed flight characteristics and on the misperceptions that can arise in flight.

The paramedic/rescuer on board the ill-fated MU-2A, Master Sgt. Kazuhiko Takayama, had been heavily involved in operations at the time of the Chuetsu Earthquake the previous year. He was the father of actor Yūko Takayama, who went on to play the role of a UH-60J pilot in the 2008 film Rescue Wings. She was reportedly spotted by an entertainment industry talent scout when visiting Tokyo to attend a memorial service for her father in 2005.

161208A Niigata-based UH-60J hovers off the port beam of a trawler off the city of Niigata in
December 2016. The unit was responding to a request for assistance from the
Japan Coast Guard in airlifting one of the ship’s crew members to hospital.

(Photo: JASDF Air Rescue Wing)

When circumstances demand, the Niigata ARS is naturally called upon to assist in the responses to disasters beyond its prefectural borders, such as following the earthquake that struck Nagano Prefecture in May 2018.

Its recent operations with sister units include the fatal accident involving the Cessna in June 2017 and the search for a glider that ended happily in May 2019 (see Komatsu ARS). (See Akita ARS for a combined operation conducted in February 2013.)

jasdfgalleryUH-60J(10)crs(Photo: JASDF)

NIIGATA ARS SPECIAL MARKINGS 

NiigataARSmkngSeen here on the side of a building at Niigata Sub-Base, the unit’s badge features Niigata
Prefecture’s official bird and plant, the toki (crested ibis) and tsubaki (Japanese camellia). 
(Photo [June 2012]: Cp9asngf via Wikimedia Commons)

1997 Niigata ARS 35th Anniversary  KV-107IIA-5 94-4850 (link)
An otherwise standard-finish KV-107IIA-5, this aircraft featured the ARS’s pink crested ibis and camellia badge (seen above) over its tail serial number. A large red ‘3’ and (on the forward door) green ‘5’, over which ‘NIIGATA’ was superimposed in blue, completed the scheme

August 2002 Niigata Sub-Base 40th Anniversary  MU-2A 23-3226 / KV-107IIA-5 64-4839 (link)
The MU-2A featured an overall yellow scheme with a (from the top) red, white and blue cheat line extending along the fuselage and up the tail, which featured a large white-outlined red ‘40’. On this occasion, the crested ibis featured prominently on the blue and white fuselage sides of the KV-107IIA-5. The bird also featured in the 40th anniversary design on the side of the front rotor mast.

October 2004 JASDF 50th Anniversary  MU-2A 23-3226 (link)
This was one of the five aircraft given a common colour scheme (see Hamamatsu ARS). The eight-man paintshop team that carried out a painstaking job, which included putting the aircraft on jacks to paint the undersides, was led by a Capt. Tomoharu Kitagawa.

June-October 2008 Air Rescue Wing 50th Anniversary  KV-107IIA-5 04-4852 (link) (link
The Niigata ARS’s contribution to celebrations that took place in the Air Rescue Wing’s Golden Jubilee year was the challenging task of applying the common scheme to a KV-107IIA-5, one of the six aircraft thus finished.

June 2012 Niigata Sub-Base 50th Anniversary  U-125A 22-3019 / UH-60J 68-4564
Although the wrong colour in the case of the U-125A, the feather incorporated into the design (link), which on the left side also resembles the shape of Niigata Prefecture, might have been intended as a reference to the designated prefectural bird, the crested ibis. Alternatively, the feather might be a throw back to the dove wing used in the original design carried on rescue T-34As and T-6Gs. Note that the U-125A carried the message ‘Anniversary from 1962’ on its engines.

Niigata specmark UH-60J(1)(Above and below) 50th Anniversary JASDF Niigata Sub-Base UH-60J 68-4564
(Photos [Niigata, June 2012]: Cp9asngf via Wikimedia Commons)
Niigata specmark UH-60J(2)

niigata50th120527(Photo [Niigata, May 2012]: Cp9asngf via Wikimedia Commons)

November 2017 Niigata Sub-Base 55th Anniversary  U-125A 92-3010 / UH-60J 98-4589

niigata55th(1)crs(Photos: doriaki25699 via Twitter [link])
niigata55th(2)crs

jasdfgalleryUH-60J(10)crs(Photo: JASDF)

NYUTABARU
(Detachment formed Mar. 1, 1960,
redesignated ARS Dec. 1, 1964)

UH-60 JASDF (1) x2crs(Photo [Nyutabaru, October 2014]: Andy Binks)

The third air rescue detachment formed at Nyutabaru on March 1, 1960, around two years after the wartime Army airfield base was established as a JASDF facility. The unit was re-designated as an ARS on December 1, 1964.

Initial equipment was the T-34A and H-19B, to which were added the T-6G and S-62J in 1964. The S-62J’s tenure was short-lived, as KV-107IIs began to arrive on the scene in December 1968.

In an early operation, conducted from July 5 to July 13, 1961, the unit was involved in the search for the four pilots from a pair of likewise Nyutabaru-based 17th Flying Training Wing T-33As that had collided 17 nautical miles (32km) off Aburatsu, Miyazaki Prefecture. Two pilots were successfully rescued, but one was killed and the other reported missing.

On December 13, 1966, the Nyutabaru ARS was scrambled after a collision between two 6th Sqn F-86Fs over the then Minami-Amabe coastal district (now the city of Saiki) of Oita Prefecture. Happily, on this occasion the ARS rescued one pilot, and the other was picked up by a passing fishing vessel.

Deliveries to Nyutabaru of the far more capable MU-2S commenced in December 1969, the end of the year in which both of the earlier fixed-wing types bowed out, but tragedy struck twice in the type’s career there.

On September 2, 1970, less than a year after the type’s introduction, an aircraft crashed near Hikone, Shiga Prefecture, when on route to Komatsu on a training flight. All four crew members lost their lives. Then, on April 11, 1973, another training flight claimed the lives of four more crew members, when their aircraft crashed near Yatogi waterfall up in the mountain town of Tsuno, Miyazaki Prefecture, soon after takeoff from Nyutabaru.

Nyutabaru ARS Mission Episodes

Date Notes
Dec. 23, 1972 Rescues all nine crew from tanker that had run aground
due to radar failure in bad weather en route to Kagoshima
May 31, 1976 Rescues pilot of 202nd Sqn F-104J who had ejected
around 90 nautical miles (165km) east of Nyutabaru

In the meantime, in the evening of August 8, 1972, a Nyutabaru ARS KV-107II-5 had crashed into the sea in flames around 40 nautical miles (80 km) from base when searching for a U.S. Navy E-2 Hawkeye in conjunction with a Nyutabaru MU-2S. When reported in the November 1972 issue of Aireview, two of the eight men on board the aircraft commanded by a 1st Lt. Toda were confirmed to have lost their lives, two had survived, and the four others were posted as missing.

Nyutabaru Dec1972In December 1972, a Nyutabaru ARS KV-107II crew successfully rescued nine crew members from
a tanker that had run aground at Shintomi, the nearby town formed by merging the
original villages of Nyuta and Tonda.
(Photo: JASDF Nyutabaru AB)

NYUTABARU ARS PHOTO CHRONOLOGY

KVDec1968crsThe scene at Nyutabaru in December 1968 following the arrival of the resident ARS’s first
KV-107II-5. The last flight of a Nyutabaru-based KV-107II was to take place
30 years later, in March 1999.
(Photo: JASDF Nyutabaru AB)

lastSART-6fltnyutaMar69crsThree months after the first KV-107II-5’s arrival, March 1969, witnessed the
final SAR mission flown by a T-6G.
(Photo: JASDF Nyutabaru AB)

MUnyutaDec69crsThe crew of the first MU-2S stands to attention on the flight line after bringing in the first MU-2S
assigned to Nyutabaru in December 1969. The last flight of a Nyutabaru-based MU-2A, the later
version with uprated engines, took place in September 2000.
(Photo: JASDF Nyutabaru AB)

DSCF0670crs(Photo [Nyutabaru, Nov. 1995]: Takao Kadokami)

UH-60J初受領Mar97crsNyutabaru, March 1997. The arrival of the first UH-60J is celebrated in
the time-honoured fashion.
(Photo: JASDF Nyutabaru AB)

40thannivandU-125A初受領Mar2000crsAnother group photo, this time taken in March 2000, commemorates the unit’s 40th anniversary,
which happily coincided with the entry into service of its first U-125A.
(Photo: JASDF Nyutabaru AB)

MUlastflySept2000crsSquadron members congregate in front of the Nyutabaru ARS MU-2S that has just completed the
unit’s last flight of the type. The banner carries an expression of thanks to the aircraft for all
the hardships endured during its service career.
(Photo [Sept. 2000]: JASDF Nyutabaru AB)

A ceremony to mark the unit’s Golden Jubilee was held on March 1, 2010.

The Akagi company visit to Nyutabaru in April 2016 coincided with the second day of flight training for a pilot who was taking the difficult route of converting from the F-4EJ Phantom to the UH-60J. The instructor pilot was 1st Lt. Kurosaki, who had previously taken the T-7 and T-400 courses before moving to the UH-60J. He and a flight engineer joined the trainee pilot for the pre-flight checks, which with questions and explanations along the way can take two or three times longer than the usual 10 minutes.

Not surprisingly, the flight training course commences with the basic familiarization with the controls and hovering. When deemed sufficiently proficient, the pilot’s flight training is conducted away from the base in the vicinity of the small nearby town of Takanabe.

KC2 21255crs(Photo [Nyutabaru, Dec. 2012]: Takao Kadokami)

Recent Operations

In the early hours of December 6, 2018, Nyutabaru U-125A and UH-60J crews worked in conjunction with their ARS counterparts at Ashiya and Hamamatsu as well as with the Japan Coast Guard and U.S. and Australian units in a protracted and extensive search operation. Five crew members of a U.S. Marine Corps KC-130J were declared missing after a nighttime midair collision with an F/A-18 Hornet south of Cape Muroto, Kochi Prefecture; only one of the latter’s two-man crew survived. The search was finally called off early on December 11.

A Nyutabaru U-125A was launched around an hour and 15 minutes after an earthquake struck Kumamoto Prefecture on the evening of January 3, 2019, the first JASDF assets over the town of Nagomi having been a pair of Tsuiki-based F-2As that had taken off just 15 minutes before.

Late at night on May 18, 2019, authorization was received from the governor of Kagoshima Prefecture for a UH-60J to join in the rescue of more than 300 hikers and others left stranded by torrential rainfall on Yakushima, a small island around 30 nautical miles (60 km) southwest of Cape Sata, Kyushu’s southernmost point. The aircraft returned from the mission on May 20.

UH-60 JASDF (3) x2crs(Photo [Nyutabaru, October 2014]: Andy Binks)

NYUTABARU ARS SPECIAL MARKINGS

February 2010 Nyutabaru ARS 50th Anniversary  U-125A 42-3022 (link)

AIR RESCUE TRAINING SQUADRON
(Formed at Hamamatsu Oct. 1, 1958;
reformed at Komaki Mar. 1, 1971)

The newly formed Kyūnan Kyōikutai (Air Rescue Training Squadron) joined the then Hamamatsu air rescue squadron on October 1, 1958.

Alongside the Komaki air rescue detachment, the Training Squadron participated in the organization’s first major disaster response missions following the Ise Bay typhoon (Typhoon Vera), which struck on September 26, 1959.

In 1961, torrential rain and the resultant flooding and landslides around the city of Iida, Nagano Prefecture, resulted in the Training Squadron’s involvement from June 30 to July 9.

After relocation from Hamamatsu, operations were recommenced from Komaki (see above), which has remained the ARW’s dedicated training base, on March 1, 1971.

AIR RESCUE WING MARKINGS

T34-409-Hyakuri-30OCT72-ARWcrs2(Photo [Hyakuri, Oct. 1972]: Akira Watanabe)

At some stage in its formative years, the then Air Rescue Group adopted a tail marking comprising a stylized form of the kanji 救 (kyū, meaning rescue) and the wing of a dove (above). Only carried on the T-6Gs and T-34As, the marking disappeared with the gradual demise of those types.

JASDF markings(Komaki, February 2014)

ARW aircraft now carry a design devised by a Staff Sgt Jisuke Fujikawa from the Training Squadron and adopted in September 1988. A blue shield incorporates the silhouette of an eagle with another shield on its breast containing a clasped hand design, representing protection and rescue. A scroll bears the words `Air Rescue Wing`, and a panel beneath carries the name, in English, of the aircraft’s home base or, in the case of Komaki-based aircraft, TRAINING SQ, as shown above. 

The Ikaros publication, JSDF Squadron, which appeared in the summer of 1996, contains a photo of the first U-125A with the words Air Rescue in cursive script on the side of its port engine.

AIR RESCUE WING SPECIAL MARKINGS

2008 ARW 50th Anniversary

For the 50th anniversary, one of each type of aircraft in service (but two U-125As) was painted in the same specially designed blue eagle colour scheme: Akita and Matsushima (U-125A); Chitose (UH-60J), Hamamatsu (MU-2A), and Niigata (KV-107IIA-5). These aircraft are listed under their respective ARSs but can be seen here: MU-2S (link), a U-125A (link), KV-107IIA-5 (link). A Misawa-based Helicopter Airlift Squadron CH-47J was also included. 

A 50th anniversary emblem was also designed, as seen on this Training Squadron U-125A in October 2008 (link).

2018 ARW 60th Anniversary

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

Unlike the flamboyant days of the 50th anniversary, none of the unit’s aircraft received a special colour scheme in honour of the occasion; two Komatsu ARS U-125As continue to sport low-viz camouflage. The only identifying mark this time was a subdued, specially designed logo (below), partly in JASDF navy blue (popularly known as ‘samurai blue’), applied in sticker form to the aircraft.

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

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

Air Transport
Training Sqn (ATTS)

Formed circa 1970 (Air Transport Wing, Miho, C-46) 
Disbanded March 1978 (upon formation of
Tactical Air Group organization)

Also referred to as the Flying Training Squadron (a direct translation of its name in Japanese, Hikōkyōikutai), this unit flew C-46s and then YS-11s from Miho under the direct command of the Air Transport Wing. Following the introduction of the TAG system, the training role remained at Miho but was passed to the 403rd Sqn.

ATTS Tail Marking
From 1975–78, ATTS YS-11s featured a disc-shaped tail marking of a red cherry blossom, which appeared in blue on 401st Squadron YS-11s from 1972–78.

Air Transport Wing

Formed Oct. 31, 1958 (Kisarazu, C-46) 
Renamed 1st Air Transport Group (March 31, 1978)

JASDF C-46D TsuikiAn Air Transport Wing C-46D at Tsuiki in December 1962. (Photo: Takao Kadokami)

The Tachikawa Air Transport Group (q.v.) had been in operation only a matter of months when relocated to Miho as the Provisional Miho Air Transport Group (q.v.) in June 1955. Miho having formed the transport operations hub, the Air Transport Wing became the Air Transport Group, which controlled the 401st Squadron at Miho and the 402nd at Kisarazu, in 1978.

ECM Training Sqn

Formed As ECM Training Flight: July 1963 (EC-46D)
As Electronic Warfare Support Sqn: Mar. 22, 1964
(Air Defense Command HQ Sqn, Kisarazu, EC-46D)
As ECM Training Sqn: July 1, 1993 
Current Base  Iruma (Air Tactics Development Wing, EC-1 and YS-11EA)

In June 1959, a radar evaluation unit was formed at Iruma in June 1959 with the primary task of checking the functions of airfield radars and radar sites. In July 1963, an office was set up within that unit to complete preparations for the independent air operations of what was called the Electronic Countermeasures (ECM) Training Flight, which although based at Kisarazu was likewise to report direct to the Iruma-based Air Defense Command HQ Squadron. Its initial equipment was two C-46D transports converted to EC-46D standard.

Elevated in status in March 1964, the newly designated Electronic Warfare Support Squadron and the radar evaluation unit relocated to Iruma on May 31, 1968. A third EC-46D was received on November 30, 1970, and a T-33A (unofficially designated an ET-33A) equipped with a pod-mounted AN/ALQ-172 electronic countermeasures system on December 16, 1971. The tasks now were research into ECM and the improvement of JASDF ECM capabilities.

Offering enhanced jamming capabilities over the EC-46D, the first specially modified YS-11C (12-1163) made its maiden flight as a YS-11E from Japan Aircraft Manufacturing (NIPPI)’s Atsugi facility on February 9, 1976. The aircraft was received into service on February 3, 1977, and followed by another (12-1162) in February 1979. Their replacement complete, the last of the ageing EC-46Ds was withdrawn from use on March 11, 1978.

Naturally drawing its personnel initially from transport units, pilots with a wealth of fighter experience began to join the squadron’s ranks from the 1980s.

The squadron’s capabilities were further enhanced by the arrival of a C-1 modified to EC-1 standard in 1986 and a YS-11E upgrade programme initiated in 1991. This involved replacing the original Rolls-Royce Dart engines and four-blade Dowty propellers with more powerful Allison-IHI T64s driving three-blade Hamilton Standard propellers and the installation of J/ALQ-7 equipment. Another obvious external difference was the replacement of the many YS-11Es many radome lumps and bumps with blade aerials. The first of the pair of what were initially known as YS-11EKai (later YS-11EA, 12-1163) made its first post-modification flight on September 12, 1991, and, following extensive testing at the Air Development and Test Wing, was finally delivered in July 1993. On the first of that month, what had been the Electronic Warfare Support Squadron had, in a throwback to its early days as the ECM Training Flight, changed its name to the ECM Training Squadron.

Having also operated the first YS-11EL modified for the electronic intelligence (ELINT)-gathering role since 1983, this was passed with the then only recently (April 1991) modified second aircraft to the Electronic Intelligence Squadron (see below) as its initial equipment upon its formation in November 1991.

On August 1, 2014, the unit was moved from under the command of the Electronic Tactics Group to the Air Tactics Development Wing.

ECM Training Sqn Markings
Adopted in 1973, the then Electronic Warfare Support Squadron’s official emblem, which consists of a helmeted crow with three lightning flashes emanating from its claws, was designed by its then commanding officer, a Lt. Col. Nozaki. The YS-11EAs, however, carry the same tricolour fin marking as the aircraft flown by the Central Air Defense Command HQ Support Squadron (the former Air Defense Command HQ, see below). In contrast, the distinctive EC-1 carries no external unit markings.

Electronic Intelligence Sqn

Formed Nov. 1991 (Iruma, Air Defence Command HQ, YS-11EL) 
Current Base Iruma (Electronic Tactics Group, YS-11EB) 

Its name literally and euphemistically meaning Electronic Flight Measurement Unit, this squadron is tasked with signal interception (SI), in other words the monitoring of the electro-magnetic wave environment and signals gathering in and around Japan. This has naturally included the conducting of flights to the disputed Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea and, on occasion, the monitoring of missiles launched by North Korea.

Initiated in the early 1980s, initial JASDF research had revolved around the Toshiba-developed J/ALR-1 signals intelligence gathering system with a view to its installation in a C-130H. When the costs of this project proved prohibitive, this system was installed on the EC-1 operated by the Electronic Warfare Support Squadron (now ECM Training Sqn, see above).

The formation of this squadron in November 1991 consolidated the JASDF operations of its fleet of four YS-11EBs in a separate unit. Its initial equipment was the two standard YS-11Cs that had been modified to YS-11EL (for ELINT) standard and previously operated by the ECM Training Squadron. The first aircraft (12-1161) was fitted with the J/ALR-1 intelligence gathering system in September 1982. Having completed a test programme at the then Air Proving Wing (now Air Development and Test Wing), the aircraft was delivered to the ECM Training Squadron in 1983. The next aircraft (92-1157) was modified to YS-11EL standard in April 1991, but the final two (82-1155 and 02-1159), completed in 1995 and 1996, were to the new YS-11EB standard that incorporated the powerplant and other changes of the ECM Training Squadron’s YS-11EAs along with the installation of the J/ALR-2 system. The first two YS-11ELs were retrospectively brought up to YS-11EB standard in 1997 (’161) and 1998 (’157), respectively.

Not surprisingly, the unit’s aircraft are finished in an overall grey colour scheme devoid of squadron markings.

Flight Check Group

Formed Oct. 1, 1958 (Air Traffic Control Group HQ, Miho, C-46) 
Current Base Iruma (Air Support Command, U-125, YS-11FC) 

Having commenced operations with a C-46 from Miho in October 1958 and moved to Kisarazu on June 1, 1959, this navaids calibration unit has operated entirely out of Iruma since May 31, 1968; Iruma had been home to its 2nd Detachment since December 26, 1963. 

DSCF5295crs(Photo [Ashiya, Oct. 1979]: Takao Kadokami)

To commence the replacement if the C-46, the first YS-11FC was delivered on February 25, 1971, and followed by the first MU-2J in 1975; the last C-46 finally bowed out on March 11, 1978.

In 1984, in addition to one YS-11FC and four MU-2Js, the unit was operating a number of T-33As.

[ADDITIONAL TEXT PENDING]

Flight Check Group Markings
Although originally designed as a black-and-white checkerboard tail marking in 1960, higher visibility red and white was eventually adopted. In the shape of a shield, the squadron badge depicts pieces on a chess board with a lightning flash.

FLIGHT CHECK GROUP SPECIAL MARKINGS

2004 JASDF 60th Anniversary  U-125 49-3043

DSCF6938(Photo [Nyutabaru, Dec. 2004]: Takao Kadokami)

Flying Training School

Formed July 6, 1954 (Hamamatsu, T-34A) 
Reorganized As 1st Flying Training School, Nov. 1, 1955
(Hamamatsu, with Branch School at Hofu)

 

Helicopter Airlift
Squadrons

Formed  As Iruma Provisional
Helicopter Airlift Sqn: Oct. 1, 1987
As Iruma Helicopter Airlift Sqn: Oct. 1, 1988
(under Air Rescue Wing, CH-47J)
Current Bases Iruma, Kasuga, Misawa, Naha
(under Air Rescue Wing, HQ Iruma, CH-47J) 

To meet a pressing requirement for helicopters capable of, for example, airlifting materiel and personnel from air bases to remote radar sites on resupply missions, the procurement of Chinook helicopters was commenced in 1984, and the first example received for testing by the then Air Proving Wing (now Air Development and Test Wing) in December 1986.

The first Helicopter Airlift Squadron was declared fully operational on October 1, 1988, exactly a year after its formation as the Iruma Provisional Helicopter Airlift Sqn; this squadron also fulfills the training role. The second squadron formed at Misawa on March 31, 1989, with those at Naha and Kasuga following in March and May 1993, respectively. (See table below.)

Two weeks prior to the formation of the second squadron at Misawa in March 1989, a JASDF reorganization resulted in the Air Rescue Wing being moved under the command of Air Support Command on March 16, 1989.

Formation Dates of Helicopter Airlift Squadrons
Base Date Formed Base Date Formed
Iruma Provisional: Oct. 1, 1987
Oct. 1, 1988
Naha Mar. 31, 1992
Misawa Mar. 31, 1989 Kasuga May 22, 1992

DSCF0659crs(Photo [Tsuiki, Nov. 1995]: Takao Kadokami)

The Helicopter Airlift Squadron organization has provided invaluable support during natural disasters. Examples of its operations in the first 10 years of its existence are shown below.

Helicopter Airlift Squadron Operations
Year Mission/Event Squadron(s)
1994 Reconnaissance of earthquake-affected areas Misawa
1995 Disaster relief in aftermath of the Great Hanshin Earthquake (All)
1996 Emergency airlift Misawa
  Airlift of wreckage from crashed passenger aircraft Kasuga
1997 (Twice) Airlift of personnel to assist cleanup operations following oil tanker capsize (All)
1998 Forest firefighting Iruma

Following another reorganization, after 25 years the Air Rescue Wing moved from being under Air Support Command to Air Defence Command control on March 26, 2013.

Helicopter Airlift Sqn Markings
As they now come under the control of the Air Rescue Wing HQ at Iruma, the aircraft currently carry the same marking as the JASDF’s Air Rescue Wing on their rear rotor masts.

Iwo To Drone
Operation Flight

Formed  As Provisional Drone Operation Unit
(under Iwo To Base Sqn): Mar. 31, 1992
As Iwo To Drone Operation Flight
(under Iwo To Base Detachment): Mar. 31, 1994
(UF-104J/JA)
Disbanded Iwo To, Mar. 31, 1997 

Having established a presence alongside the JMSDF facilities on the island in January 1984, the JASDF formed the Provisional Drone Operation Unit under the Iwo To Base Squadron in March 1992. The squadron was re-designated as a detachment the following month, and the provisional unit officially renamed the Iwo To Drone Operation Flight in March 1994.

The aircraft most closely associated with the JASDF operation on Iwo To were the 12 F-104J Starfighters converted to UF-104JA (and two interim-standard UF-104J) target drones. The last Starfighters in JASDF service, the first was shot down in March 1995, the last two years later, after which the flight was disbanded. If there were ever plans to resurrect the unit to operate other candidates for conversion, such as the Mitsubishi F-1, they never reached fruition.

Two excellent videos on YouTube show the two UF-104Js during testing. The first covers a manned test flight [link], the second a remote flight from a ground station with a manned chase aircraft [link]. These clearly show the unit’s scorpion tail marking.

Kisarazu Squadron/
Iruma Squadron

Formed As Kisarazu Training Sqn:
Oct. 17, 1958 (Air Transport Wing, C-46)
As Kisarazu Detachment:
Dec. 1, 1958 (Air Transport Wing, C-46)
As Kisarazu Sqn: June 1, 1959
(Air Transport Wing, C-46)
Reorganized As Iruma Sqn: June 1, 1968 (Air Transport Wing, C-46) then

402nd Sqn (q.v.): Oct. 1, 1968 (2nd TAG, C-46)
March 1978 (2nd TAG)
March 1989 (2nd TAG reports direct to Air Support Command)

 

Provisional Matsushima
Detachment

Formed As NSF Provisional Matsushima Detachment:
June 1, 1954 
As JASDF Provisional Matsushima Detachment:
July 1, 1954
Reorganized As 2nd Flying School, Nov. 1, 1955

 

Miho Detachment

Formed  As Provisional Miho Detachment:
June 6, 1955 (Miho, C-46)
Renamed Air Transport Wing (Oct. 1, 1958) 

Originally formed as the Tachikawa Air Transport Group (q.v.) in 1955, the short-lived Miho Detachment formed following the move from Tachikawa to Miho in Tottori Prefecture as a provisional unit on June 6 that year. It was from this that the two-squadron Air Transport Wing was formed in 1958.

REGIONAL AIR DEFENSE FORCE HQ
SUPPORT FLIGHT GROUPS

What were originally formed as regional air command support flights were all re-designated as regional air defense HQ support flight groups in August 2014.

Northern

Formed As Northern Air Detachment:
July 1960 (Misawa, T-33A)
As Northern Air Command Support Flight: TBC
As Northern Air Defense Force HQ
Support Flight Group: Aug. 1, 2014 
Current Base Misawa (T-4) 

Initially formed under Air Defense HQ command in July 1960, what was originally the Northern Air Detachment reported to the commanding officer of the Northern Air Command from the following year. Its sole aircraft, a T-33A, was maintained by the 81st Air Group then based at Misawa.

Northern Air Defense Force HQ Support Flight Group Tail Marking
Initially, aircraft assigned to the then Northern Air Detachment carried two red stripes like those of the 81st Air Group. From 1980 to around the mid-1990s, the marking combined Aomori Prefecture and the apples for which it is famous in Japan.

Formerly worn by the 8th Sqn in the F-86F and F-1 eras, the unit’s current blue tail marking is of a stylized ‘3’ (denoting the 3rd Air Wing) beneath the outline of the Shimokita Peninsula, in Aomori Prefecture. The marking was first worn on the unit’s T-33As from 1978, during its time as the Northern Air Command Support Flight.

Central

Formed As Provisional Air Training Flight:
August 1956 (Johnson [Iruma] AB, T-33A)
As Air Defense Command HQ Squadron: Sept. 1, 1958
 (Johnson [Iruma] AB, T-33A) 
As Central Air Defense Force HQ
Support Flight Group: Aug. 1, 2014
Current Base Iruma (T-4, U-4) 

The formation of the then Air Defense Command HQ Squadron, with two T-33As on September 1, 1958, came a month after the August 1958 establishment of the JASDF Central Air Defense Force HQ and Iruma AB at Johnson AB*.

Forming the HQ Squadron was essentially an exercise in renaming its forerunner, the Provisional Air Training Flight (Rinji Kōkū Kunrentai) that had formed in August 1956, flown the two T-33As and boasted all of 15 personnel. Aside from the flying unit, a total of seven elements, including electronic warfare and radar evaluation units as well as maintenance and airfield operation squadrons, were to gradually come under the HQ Squadron umbrella over the next few years.

In terms of aircraft, the HQ Squadron went on to receive T-6Gs in 1960, two of which were flying alongside five F-86Fs** and six T-33As by 1961. The T-6Gs were replaced by five T-34As on March 25, 1964. Then as now, the unit’s aircraft were used for liaison flights and check rides as well as training for pilots assigned to ground duties.

In March 1964, an ECM Training Flight was formed at Kisarazu but came under HQ Squadron command. (The development of this unit was covered earlier, under the Electronic Warfare Support Sqn.). That year, the unit’s inventory comprised six F-86Fs and 12 T-33As.

On April 1, 1977, the unit received four RF-86Fs with sufficient flying hours remaining on their airframes following the end of the type’s operations with the 501st Sqn. These remained in service until October 1979.

In 1980, it was the turn of the T-34As to be replaced, in this case by five B-65 Queen Airs transferred from the JMSDF on March 4. Two were destined to be passed on to the Southwestern HQ Flight later that same year.

At its peak, the unit was flying 12 F-86Fs. On March 15, 1982, it fell to the pilot of aircraft ’497 to bring the curtain down on the era of JASDF F-86F operations. Unfortunately, bad weather forced the cancellation of the pre-ceremony farewell flight, and so all present had to be content with seeing the aircraft being taxied along the runway one last time.

In 1984, the unit was equipped with around 20 T-33As and the three B-65s and overseeing the operations of the three ECM Sqn YS-11Es.

The unit has been operating the T-4 and U-4 since December 1994 and February 1998 respectively; the last B-65 was retired on February 10, 1998.

It was on August 1, 2014, that the support squadron under the command of Air Defense Command HQ was transferred to the Central Air Defense Force as its HQ Support Flight Group.

* The joint use of Johnson itself, which was to be redesignated Johnson Air Station on December 30, 1960, was agreed in June 1961, but the U.S. military ceased using the base for air operations a year later. After a protracted general winding down of the U.S. Air Force presence, the base was finally fully returned to the Japanese government in September 1978.
** Although one Japanese source states that five F-86Fs were on strength at the time of squadron’s formation, these were received in 1960.

Central Air Defense Force HQ Support Flight Group Tail Marking
The unit’s red, yellow and blue chevron tail marking, denoting the then three principal (northern, central and western) air commands, was first adopted in 1962, in the early days of its time as the Air Defense Command HQ Squadron.

Western

Formed As Western HQ Support Flight: 1972
As Western Air Defense Force HQ
Support Flight Group: Aug. 1, 2014
Current Base Kasuga (T-4)

T-4 JASDF Kasuga(Photo: JASDF Kasuga)

[TEXT IN PREPARATION]

Marking JASDF Kasuga T-4On aircraft visiting Tsuiki, November 2017
(Photo: Hunini via Wikimedia Commons)

Western Air Defense Force HQ Support Flight Group Tail Marking
The tail marking depicts a samurai helmet. In earlier times, Western HQ Support Flight T-33As had worn a tail marking of the same design as that of the 8th Air Wing at Tsuiki.

Southwestern

Formed

As Southwestern HQ Support Flight:

May 1972 (Naha)

As Southwestern Air Defense Force HQ
Support Flight Group: Aug. 1, 2014 (Naha, T-4) 

Current Base  Naha (T-4)

JASDF T-4 NahaDecember 2008. Specially marked for the traditional end-of-year airshow, a T-4 assigned to the
Southwestern Support Flight of the then Southwestern Composite Air Division (since July 2017,
the Southwestern Air Defense Force) sits on the apron at Naha.

Like its counterpart in the western region, when initially formed in May 1972, after Okinawa had reverted to Japanese administration, the Southwestern HQ Support Flight operated a Southwestern Composite Air Division aircraft on loan from its active unit, the 83rd Air Group, as required.

Two former JMSDF B-65 Queen Airs, which had briefly seen service with the then Air Defense Command HQ Squadron, were passed on to the Southwestern HQ Support Flight late in 1980. The last surviving example was withdrawn from use with the Southwestern Support Flight on March 1, 1999.

Southwestern Air Defense Force HQ Support Flight Group Tail Marking
The unit’s T-4s sport a yellow tail marking of a shisa, a lion-like Ryukyuan god said to protect Okinawa from evil. This was first adopted on the then Southwestern Support Flight’s aircraft in December 1984. 

From 1981, both the flight’s B-65s and T-33As had carried the Southern Cross marking of the resident Starfighter squadron, the 207th.

Tachikawa Air Transport
Group

Formed  As Provisional Tachikawa Detachment:
Feb. 1, 1955 (Tachikawa, C-46)
As Tachikawa Air Transport Group:
Mar. 1, 1955 (C-46)
Renamed Provisional Miho Air Group (June 6, 1955) 

The origins of today’s 1st Tactical Airlift Group, the Tachikawa Air Transport Group itself started off as a provisional detachment in February 1955 but moved to Miho on June 6 that very same year. Basic transport pilot course T-1, which had commenced in March 1955 and comprised four experienced pilots, was outsourced and conducted at Tachikawa by U.S. Air Force instructors.

Tactical Fighter Training
Group (Aggressor Sqn)

Formed  Dec. 17, 1981 (Tsuiki, T-2 and T-33A)
Current Base Komatsu (Air Tactics Development Wing, F-15J/DJ and T-4) 

Having formed at Tsuiki AB with five T-2s and two T-33As in December 1981, on March 16, 1983, this unit moved to Nyutabaru AB, which became known as “Japan’s Nellis” after the home of the unit’s U.S. Air Force’s aggressor squadron counterpart.

Having commenced F-15DJ operations in 1990, the first F-15J arrived in autumn 2000. A plan to phase in F-2Bs never materialized.

A ceremony held at Nyutabaru on May 14, 2016, marked the start of the relocation to Komatsu as part of the reorganization that shifted principal fighter units to Kyushu and Okinawa. The last of the unit’s eight aircraft completed the move by arriving at Komatsu on June 10, where another ceremony was held that afternoon attended by the unit’s 70 personnel and around 300 Komatsu AB personnel. Komatsu

Tactical Fighter Training Group (Aggressor Squadron) Tail Marking
A cobra’s head unit tail marking has been used from the outset.

AggrNyutabaruCopeNorth85-4crsA trio of Tactical Fighter Training Group T-2s taxying at an overcast Nyutabaru during the joint Japan-
U.S. Exercise Cope North 85-4. Aimed at people outside the base perimeter, the yellow sign means
‘No Trespassing’. 
(Photo [Nyutabaru, Aug. 26, 1985]: Staff Sgt. James R. Ferguson/USAF via
U.S. National Archives and Records Administration [NARA])

Glossary of Principal Terms Used in JASDF Squadron Histories 

Airborne Early Warning
 Surveillance Group (Misawa)
Hikō Keikai Kanshigun 飛行警戒監視群
Airborne Early Warning &
Control Group (Hamamatsu)
Keikaikōkūtai 警戒航空隊
Air Development &
Test Command (Mar. 1989–)
Kōkū Kaihatsu
Jikken Shūdan
航空開発実験集団
Air Development &
Test Wing (Mar. 1989–)
Hikō Kaihatsu
Jikkendan
飛行開発実験団
Airlift Squadron (Used only in English references to
transport squadrons)
Air Proving Group 
(Dec. 1955 to Apr. 1974)
Jikken Kōkūtai 実験航空隊
Air Proving Wing 
(Apr. 1974 to Mar. 1989)
Kōkū Jikkendan 航空実験団
Air Rescue Detachment Kyūnan Bunkentai
(Feb. 1959 to Nov. 1964)
救難分遣隊
Kyūnantai
(Dec. 1964–)
救難隊
Air Rescue Group
(1961 to 1971)
Kōkū Kyūnangun 航空救難群
Air Rescue Squadron
(1958 to 1961)
Kyūnan Kōkūtai 救難航空隊
Air Rescue Training Squadron Kyūnan Kyōikutai 救難教育隊
Air Rescue Wing
(Mar. 1971–)
Kōkū Kyūnandan 航空救難団
Air Support Command Kōkū Shien Shūdan 航空支援集団
Air Tactics Development
Wing (Yokota)
Kōkūsengi Kyōdōdan 航空戦術教導団
 Air Training Command  Kōkū Kyōiku Shūdan 航空教育集団 
Air Transport Group (1955–58) Yusōkōkūtai 輸送航空隊
Air Transport Wing (1958–78) Yusōkōkūdan 輸送航空団
 Air Wing  Kōkūdan  航空団
Branch School (1950s) Bunkō 分校
 Central Air Command
HQ Support Squadron
Chūbu Kōkūhōmentai
Shireibu Shien Hikōtai 
 中部航空方面隊
司令部支援飛行隊
Detachment Hakentai 派遣隊
ECM Training Flight (1963–64) Denshi Kunrentai 電子訓練隊
ECM Training Squadron (1993–)
 Electronic Intelligence (ELINT) Squadron  Denshi Hikōsokuteitai 電子飛行測定隊 
Electronic Tactics Group  Denshi Sakusengun  電子作戦群 
 Electronic Warfare Support Squadron
(1964–1993)
 Denshisenshientai   電子戦支援隊
Fighter Training Group Hikō Kyōiku Kōkūtai 飛行教育航空隊
 Fighter Training Squadron    (Used only in English references
to 23rd Sqn)
Flight Check Group   Hikōtenkentai 飛行点検隊 
Flying Training School (1956–59)        Sōjūgakkōbunkō 操縦学校分校
 Flying Training Squadron  Hikōkyōikutai 飛行教育隊 
 Flying Training Wing       Hikōkyōikudan  飛行教育団 
 Helicopter Airlift Squadron  Herikoputa-kūyutai  ヘリコプター
空輸隊
 Northern Air Command 
Support Flight
 Hokubu Kōkūhōmentai 
Shienhikōhan
 北部航空方面隊
支援飛行班
 Southwestern Support
Flight Group
 Nansei Shienhikōhan  南西支援飛行班
Special Airlift Group Tokubetsu Kōkūyusōtai 特別航空輸送隊
Tactical Airlift Group* Yusōkōkūtai 輸送航空隊
Tactical Fighter
Training Group**
Hikokyōdōgun 飛行教導群
Technical School Gijutsu Gakkō 術科学校
Western Air Defense Force HQ
Support Flight Squadron
Seibu Kōkūhōmentai
Shireibu Shienhikōtai
西部航空方面隊
司令部支援飛行隊
*   3rd TAG calls itself the 3rd Tactical Airlift Wing
** Aggressor Squadron

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


Principal Reference Sources (in Japanese unless otherwise stated)

 

Principal Reference Sources (in Japanese unless otherwise stated)

JSDF Squadron, series published in Kōkū Fan magazine, Bunrindo (various issues 1997–2001)

Japan Self-Defense Force Squadron, Ikaros, Summer 1996

JASDF F-15 All-Unit Guide, JWings, October 2014 issue

Kōkū Jieitai F-86/F-104, Military Aircraft of JASDF Vol. 6, Ikaros, 2005

Kōkū Jieitai T-4/C-1/E-767, Military Aircraft of JASDF Vol. 5, Ikaros, 2005

Mitsubishi T-2/F-1 Shashinshū (Photo Collection), Hobby Japan, 2017

North American F-86 Sabre, Famous Airplanes of the World Nos. 20 and 93, Bunrindo, 1995/2002

T-1/T-3/T-4/T-7 Shashinshū (Photo Collection), Hobby Japan, 2017

Watanabe, Akira, Japanese Air Arms, 19521984, (self-published in English), 1984

Japanese Wikipedia

JASDF base/unit websites

 

logors25

Notices

Announcements

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

Airshows in 2020
Mar.*  Komaki
Nov. 3  Iruma

Airshows in 2018
Feb. 18  Ashiya
Mar. 3  Komaki
Apr. 8  Kumagaya
May 20  Shizuhama
miho 2018 poster
May 27  Miho
June 3  Hofu-Kita
July 22  Chitose
Aug. 26  Matsushima
Sept. 9  Misawa
Sept. 17  Komatsu
Oct. 14  Ashiya
Nov. 3  Iruma
Nov. 18  Gifu
Nov. 25  Hamamatsu
Nov. 25  Tsuiki
Dec. 2  Hyakuri
Dec. 2  Nyutabaru
Dec. 8-9  Naha

2017 Event Posters
Hofu-Kita / Miho
JASDF Hofu-Kita


Miho poster 2017

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

Airshows in 2020
Jan.*  Narashino
(paratroop display)

Airshows in 2018
Jan. 12  Narashino
 (paratroop display)
Apr. 15  Kasuminome
May 26  Kasumigaura
May 27 Kita-
                Utsunomiya
June 17  Asahikawa
Aug. 26  Fuji live fire
Sept. 9  Kisarazu
                (cancelled)
Sept. 29  Tachikawa
Oct. 6  Obihiro
Oct. 14  Yao
Nov. 4  Akeno
Nov. 25  Naha 

2017 Event Posters
Kisarazu / Metabaru
Kisarazu 170225

Metabaru 2017

JMSDF
2019 Airshow Dates
Apr. 27  Atsugi
Apr. 28  Kanoya
May 5  Iwakuni
(joint Friendship Day)
May 18  Maizuru
May 19  Ohmura
July 13-14
          Komatsushima
July 27  Tateyama
Sept. 21  Hachinohe
Oct. 20  Ozuki
Oct. 26 Shimofusa
Nov. 17  Tokushima

Airshows in 2018
Apr. 21  NAF Atsugi
Apr. 30  Kanoya
May 5  Iwakuni
(joint Friendship Day)
May 27  Omura
July 15  Komatsushima
July 21  Maizuru
July 28  Tateyama
 (cancelled [typhoon])
Sept. 16  Hachinohe
Sept. 29  Tokushima
Oct. 20  Shimofusa
Oct. 21  Ozuki

2017 Event Posters
Ozuki  (July children’s
event / Oct. Swell Festival)
Ozuki event July 2017

Ozuki Swell 2017

(*) Date to be confirmed

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

Links

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The Aviation Historian

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