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Squadrons Merge in Iwakuni Reorganization

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

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

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

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

Curtain Falling on Misawa Museum Duo

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

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

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

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

(Photo [August 2017]: via Wikimedia Commons) 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saga Prefecture Strawberry Fields Forever

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

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

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

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

Modified Makeover for Mook

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

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

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

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

Police Fleet Modernization Continues

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

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

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

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

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

(Photo: Airbus Helicopters/Chikako Hirano)

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Ospreys Have Landed (Make That Docked)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

JGSDF Units Geared Up for Firefighting Season

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Additional Final Curtain Call Colour Scheme

(Photo: JASDF/Hyakuri AB)

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

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

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

(Photo: JASDF/Hyakuri AB)

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

(Photo: JASDF/Hyakuri AB)

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

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

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

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

JCG H225 Orders and Arrivals

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

(Photo: Airbus Helicopters/Anthony Pecchi)

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

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

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

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

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

A Farewell Look Back at 501st Squadron Phantoms

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Final JGSDF OH-6D Flight Takes Place

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

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

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

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

3rd TFS Makes Its Move

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

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

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

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

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

JASDF Newcomers Arrive via Northern Latitudes

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

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

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

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

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

501st Flies Its Final Training Missions

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

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

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

(Photo: JASDF Hyakuri AB)

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

Uzurano Museum Adding Cockpit-only Exhibit

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

302nd Sqn Eagle Tail Marking Returns

(Photo: JASDF Misawa AB)

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

Aviation Museums Temporarily Close Their Doors

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

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

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

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

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

ShinMaywa Heralds Its 50th Aircraft

(Photo: ShinMaywa Industries, Ltd. via Facebook)

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

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

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

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

New Mitsubishi Archive Now Accepting Reservations

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fukushima Police Helicopter Involved in Non-Fatal Crash

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Herculean Efforts Help Fight Fires Down Under

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

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

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

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

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

(Photo [January 30]: JASDF Komaki)

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

Popular Addition Made to Gifu Base Collection

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

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

Atsugi SNJ-5 Given Back Its JMSDF Identity Tags

(Photo: NAF Atsugi via Facebook)

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

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

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

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




Airshows in 2021
Mar. 6  Komaki

Airshows in 2020
All shows cancelled
Apr. 5  Kumagaya
May 24  Hofu
May 24  Shizuhama
June  Miho  
July 19  Chitose
Aug. 23  Matsushima
Sept.  Komatsu
Sept.  Misawa
Oct.  Ashiya
Oct.  Hamamatsu
Oct.*  Hyakuri
  (SDF Review)
Nov. 3  Iruma
Nov.  Gifu
Dec.  Tsuiki
Dec.  Naha
Dec. 6  Nyutabaru

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



Airshows in 2020
All shows cancelled

Jan. 12  Narashino
(paratroop display)
Apr. 11 Somagahara

May 24  Okadama
Oct.  Kisarazu
Oct.  Metabaru
Oct.  Yao
Oct.  Tachikawa
Nov.  Akeno

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



Airshows in 2020
All shows cancelled
Apr. 11 Atsugi
(joint Friendship Day)
Apr. 26  Kanoya
May 5  Iwakuni
(joint Friendship Day)
Oct.  Ozuki
Oct.  Shimofusa
Nov.  Tokushima

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

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



(*) Date to be confirmed

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


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