​​Jetwash Aviation Photos


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The F-2A above is carrying four Mitsubishi ASM-2 anti-ship missiles on the under-wing pylons together with two AIM-9 Sidewinders
The aircraft is from 6 Hikotai/8 Kokudan and is based at Tsuiki

Two Quick Reaction Alert (QRA) Phantoms taxi back to the QRA shed at Hyakuri on 18th October, having flown a short mission
Note what appears to be Rafael Python missiles on the underwing pylons

Although still displaying a rather drab colour scheme this EP-3 Orion from 81 Kokutai is more interesting, being one of only five operated by the unit
It is seen here taxying out at Atsugi for a morning mission on 12th October
. 81 Kokutai forms part of 31 Kokugun and is based at Iwakuni Naval Air Station

71 Kokutai operates four ShinMaywa US-2 flying boats and we were fortunate to see three of them during our time in Japan
#9902 took part in the Military Review at Hyakuri on Sunday 16th October and she is seen here departing in clear blue evening skies

Three U-125s are used by the Hiko Tenkentai at Iruma, identifiable by their distinctive red & white colour scheme

Used in the Flight Checking Role, #49-3043 can be seen above departing Iruma Air Base on 17th October 2011

Around seventy Sikorsky UH-60J Blackhawks are on order for the JGSDF

This one is seen being pushed back into its hanger at the Army Aviation School, Akeno

Japan Air Self Defence Force /Kōkū Jieitai

As I mentioned, we had seen a 71 Kokutai US-2 arrive earlier in the week, and here is #9904 in all her spleandour

Japan had for many years been a country high on our list of priorities to visit. However for one reason or another, we had been unable to make the long trek to the far-east to discover the delights of this military aviation enthusiasts heaven before now. In recent years Japan has gone from being a dream destination for military aviation photographers to a reality, with many having made the long trip in search of exotic and brightly coloured aircraft. With many of the aircraft being of indigenous origin and unique to the country, Japan offers the opportunity to see numerous types not seen in the skies outside of its own borders. And so in October 2011, Jetwash Aviation Photos set out for its first sojourn into 'The Land Of The Rising Sun'.

The Air Rescue Wing at Iruma is unique in that it utilises the CH-47JA Chinook in the SAR role
They also provide the JASDF with a VTOL capability and wear a very distinctive and attractive camouflage scheme

Sun & Fun at 'Superbase Hyakuri' as this T-4 crew taxies past the 'Spotters Towers' close to the taxiway

A perfect spot for photography

#16-5670 of 302 Hikotai taxies past the famous 'Spotters Towers' at Hyakuri towards the threshold of Runway 03

This Beechcraft TC-90 KingAir is one of 40 delivered to the JMSDF, of which approximately 25 remain in service
The aircraft are operated by 202 Kokutai at Tokushima and provide multi-engine fixed wing training for future P-3 and US-2 pilots

So there we have it, our first trip to Japan and well worth the time, effort and of course money put into the venture. With so many bases to visit and travelling distances involved being somewhat lengthy it is impossible to cover everything in just ten days. However, it gave us a good first taste of what Japan has to offer and I am sure it will not be our last venture to this enthusiasts haven. As mentioned earlier, it has so much to offer in terms of the number of aircraft to see, the accessability of the bases and day to day operations, along with the opportunity to photograph aircraft with unique colour schemes, indigenous only to Japan. Combine this with the friendliness of the people and it realy is as good as it gets!

Although 305 Hikotai's F-15 Eagles remained grounded, their T-4 trainers appeared to be operating as normal
The Plum Flower unit badge clearly identifiable on the tail-fin of #06-5643

Five Gulfstream 4s are in use with the JASDF, based at Iruma and designated as the U-4 in Japan

The aircraft are equipped with a multi-mission, rapid-change interior, which can be converted to one of three different mission configurations

Passenger, high-priority cargo and medical evacuation interiors provide the JASDF with an extremely versatile, multi-mission aircraft

The Mitsubishi F-2 is a multi-role fighter aircraft based on the American F-16 Fighting Falcon
It was originally designated the FS-X and entered service in 2000, but
in comparison to the F-16 it has a larger wing area,

larger tail-plane and air intake, a 3-piece cockpit canopy and utilises composite materials in its construction

This particular F-4EJ-Kai is from 301 Hikotai/5 Kokudan at Nyutabaru, seen here taking off as light fades
301 Hikotai is the Phantom Operational Conversion Unit (OCU)

The U-4 Gulfstream landing above is operated by 402 Hikotai/2 Yuso Kokutai
The U-4s at Iruma seem to frequently change operator between 402 Hikotai and the Shien Hikotai

Japan has been an extensive user of the McDonnell-Douglas F-4 Phantom II since 1971, and once had some 150 in service. Japan is unique among F-4 operators in that their aircraft are the only ones built outside of the United States, having been constructed in Japan from kits supplied by McDonnell-Douglas. With the introduction of the F-15J Eagle and subsequently the Mitsubishi F-2, the Phantom dwindled in numbers, as it has around the globe. However, it is still has a stronghold in Japan in 2011, with 301 Hikotai at Nyutabaru and 302 Hikotai at Hyakuri continuing to fly the F-4EJ-Kai, whilst 501 Hikotai still flies the RF-4EJ-Kai at Hyakuri. Hence you can see the reason that particular base held a strange attraction for us. Sadly, as with the F-15s, the recce Phantoms remained on the ground during our time in Japan, with no-one able to explain why. There always seemed to be plenty on the ramps being worked on, but there seemed to be no urgency to get them into the air. We had hoped to see them take part in the military review at Hyakuri, but even then they remained solidly on terra-ferma.

One of 12 Hiko Kyoikudan's T-7 trainers about to touch down at its home base of Shizuhama

Some of the T-4s based at Hamamatsu wear the red/white colour scheme seen above

Both 31 & 32 Hikotai have a few aircraft in this pattern, although most aircraft in this scheme are operated by 13 Hiko Kyoikudan at Ashiya

You can see a feint outline of the 13 Hiko unit badge on the tail

#46-5725 of the Blue Impulse aerobatic team gets airborne at Hyakuri Air Base on 11th October 2011

Another McDonnell-Douglas F-4EJ-Kai from 302 Hikotai taxies close to the fence at its home base after landing

Hamamatsu is home to 1 Kokudan and operates two Hikotai in the fast-jet training role
The squadrons wear distinctive checkerboard markings on the tail, with either a red or blue band on the tail-fin
The red band on #46-5715 above identifies the aircraft as being operated by 32 Hikotai

Most bases operate with a Koku Kyunandan (Air Rescue Wing) utilising the British Aerospace U-125A

The aircraft above belongs to the Hyakuri Air Rescue Wing and is seen landing at its home base

Individual aircraft's home base can be identified by a very small box below the unit badge containing the base name

The most numerous aircraft operated by the JMSDF are the Lockheed P-3C Orions, of which some 100 were built
They have over the years lost their colourful markings and #5091 from 2 Kokutai is typical of how they now look
The P-3 Orion is operated by four front-line units, a training unit (203 Kokutai at Shimofusa) and the test unit (51 Kokutai at Atsugi)

This Mitsubishi built SH-60J Sea Hawk belongs to 51 Kokutai and is one of around 100 J-models operated by the JMSDF
The airframe is based on the US. Navy's SH-60B but lacks the LAMPS system. It is used in the anti-submarine role and the yellow Magnetic Anomaly Detector (MAD) can be clearly seen on the side of this particular aircraft

A Quick Reaction Alert (QRA) at Hyakuri sees #47-8333 depart the runway

#77-6397 was originally built as a F-4EJ and was later converted to an (R)F-4EJ

Some fifteen aircraft were converted, of which five are believed to still be in service

The (R)F-4EJs are identifiable from the standard RF-4s, as they lack the recce' nose and wear a different camouflage scheme

This particular Phantom was photographed in overcast skies at its home base of Gifu
It is operated by the Hiko Kaihatsu Jikkendan (Air Development & Test Wing) and sport's the unit badge on the tail fin

The Blue Impulse guys have to be the friendliest aircrew I have ever seen

Some of them go crazy when they see you, and wave vigorously
Not only that, they look pretty cool too!

The Fuji T-7 turbo-prop trainer is based with 11 Hiko Kyoikudan at Shizuhama, and 12 Hiko Kyoikudan at Hofu

The aircraft replaced the earlier Fuji T-3 and began entering service in 2003

A 3 Hikotai/3 Kokudan F-2A taxies past the ever present fire truck on stand-by
The fire trucks are most useful in establishing whether the runways are still active

404 Hikotai at Komaki/Nagoya operates four Boeing KC-767 tankers

#07-3604 is seen taking part in the 'Military Review' at Hyakuri

Phabulous Phantoms Phorever!

So after much careful planning, a large amount of time spent on deciding what bases we would visit, getting detailed maps organised of each base (including the best locations around each airfield), working out travelling times and covering every conceiveable detail, everything was thrown into chaos within hours of our arrival. Firstly, we discovered that the JASDF F-15s had been grounded due to one 'losing' a drop tank in mid-air, two days prior to our arrival. Sadly, they remained grounded throughout our time in the country. Secondly, a Military Review was scheduled for a week after our arrival and so we wanted to be there to witness that, as it gave an opportunity to see numerous types from all three services. However, the drawback to this was that the build up to the event had a major impact on the flying activity at Hyakuri (where the review would take place), a base that was high on our list of priorities. The combined impact of these two events caused us to to re-think our plans within hours of our arrival and yet again the following day, as we then discovered there would be no flying due to it being a public holiday! Nevertheless, we managed to visit nine bases during our ten days in Japan, a mix of JASDF, JMSDF and JGSDF. We were also extremely fortunate to see numerous aircraft that people have not seen despite visiting Japan several times, so in many ways we also had some luck on our travels. Due to our re-scheduling we only got as far South as Hamamatsu and Komaki, so it seems we will have to return again to savour the delights of places such as Iwakuni, Tsuiki and Nyutabaru.

The Flight Check Squadron at Iruma also operates three NAMC YS-11FCs, #52-1151 is seen having just landed on Runway 17

One of only three ShinMaywa US-1As still operational, #9090 of 71 Kokutai based at Iwakuni approaches the threshold of Runway 19A permanent 71 Kokutai detachment is based at Atsugi, with either a single US-1A or US-2 in residence

The planned successor for the aging AH-1 Cobra fleet was supposed to be the AH-64DJ

However budget cuts mean that the JGSDF will now only replace one Anti-Tank Helicopter unit with the Apache

Two Kawasaki (X)P-1 protoypes are currently in service, with the second airframe seen here performing overshoots at NAS Atsugi
The first (X)P-1 flew in September 2007 although no current in-service date is set. It is planned that the P-1 will replace the P-3C Orions currently in service, 51 Kokutai using the aircraft as part of the test programme

A Quick Reaction Alert (QRA) at Hyakuri sees #47-8333 depart the runway on 18th October

401 Hikotai at Komaki/Nagoya has 16 Lockheed C-130H Hercules transports on strength
Previously operating the Kawasaki C-1, 401 Hikotai transitioned to the Hercules in 1984
The aircraft above wears the original camouflage scheme applied prior to delivery

A Nyutabaru based 301 Hikotai F-4EJ-Kai gets airborne

One of a kind and easily distinguishable from the standard C-1s by the bulbous nose radar is the sole Kawasaki EC-1
It is used in the Electronic Warfare/Electronic Counter-Measures (EW/ECM) role

As well as four Boeing 767 tankers the JASDF operates four similar aircraft configured for AWACS operations
The second aircraft delivered is seen at its home base of Hamamatsu

#67-8377 having just 'blown' its braking parachute after recovery at Hyakuri Air Base

#87-8407 of 302 Hikotai returns to the squadron ramp after a mission

The defence policy of Japan reflects the unusual position of the country, in that although it is a major diplomatic and economic power, and one with an historical reputation of military aggressiveness, Japan resists the development of armed forces with a capability for military power projection. A military proscription is included as Article 9 of the 1947 constitution stating, "The Japanese people forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as a means of settling international disputes". That article, along with the rest of the "Peace Constitution", retains strong government and citizen support and is interpreted as permitting the Self-Defense Forces (SDF), but prohibiting those forces from possessing nuclear weapons or other offensive arms. The SDF comes under the control of the Ministry of Defense and are subordinate to the Prime Minister. Its activities are confined to disaster relief and limited UN peacekeeping efforts, and Japan's national defense policy has been based on maintaining the 1960 'Treaty of Mutual Co-operation and Security' with the United States, under which Japan assumed unilateral responsibility for its own internal security, albeit that the United States agreed to join in Japan's defense in the event that Japan or its territories were attacked. The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979 and the build up of military forces in the Soviet Far East, including the Kuriles, a group of islands to the north of Hokkaidō, which were occupied by the Soviet Union but claimed by Japan, led Japan to develop a program to modernize and improve the SDF in the 1980s, especially in air defense and anti-submarine warfare. The early 1990s saw the government re-evaluate its security policy, based on reduced East-West tensions, and Hideyoshi Kase, the former senior adviser to the Prime Minister and Japan's Defense Agency's former director general, said in an interview; "If the United States withdraws its forces from Japan, we will spend the next ten years re-arming in various ways, including acquiring nuclear weapons". To date no such action has been deemed necessary, however the Japanese Self Defence Force's continue to maintain a strong air capability, operated by all three of the subordinate armed forces.

In 1960 the JASDF formed an aerobatic display team at Hamamatsu air base with five F-86F Sabres, with the first demonstration of the new team (named Tenryu), taking place on 4th March 1960. This name proved hard to pronounce in western languages and so the team was re-named the Blue Impulse. In 1961 the five Sabres received the now familiar blue and white colour scheme, and in February 1982, after 545 demonstrations, the Blue Impulse converted to six Mitsubishi T-2 aircraft. The first airshow with these planes took place on 25th June in the team's home base of Matsushima. The Blue Impulse later converted to the new Kawasaki T-4 trainer, performing their first show with the aircraft on 5th April 1996. In 1997 the Blue Impulse made its foreign debut at Nellis AFB, USA as part of the '50th Anniversary Golden Air Tattoo', where funnily enough I personally experienced the team at work for the first time.

#34-3461 climbs out of Hyakuri

The Kawasaki OH-1 is a tandem seat armed scout/light observation helicopter. As with most Japanese procurement the delivery is extremely slow. Delivery commenced in 2000 and the 45 planned are still under production

Wearing the standard army camouflage, OH-6D #31306 is seen at Akeno on 14th October 2011
It is planned that the OH-6 will eventually be replaced by the new OH-1, although production for that is very slow and I expect the OH-6D will still be around for some time to come

In the week prior to the build up to the Military Review at Hyakuri, the Blue Impulse were resident practising their routines

The first F-4EJ-Kai was delivered on 24th November 1989 to the JASDF's 306 Hikotai. Upgrades included the smaller and more lightweight AN/APG-66J Pulse Doppler radar and a heads-up display resulting in a look-down/shoot-down capability. The central computer was updated, as well as the J/APR-6 homing and warning system, IFF system and the inertial navigation unit.

This Bell HU-1J Iroquois is seen at its home base of Akeno,home of the Army Aviation School
The UH-1J is a Fuji produced UH-1H upgraded with a Kawasaki T53-K-703 engine, main rotor and transmission, IR exhaust suppressor, an AH-1S tail rotor and a night-vision-goggle compatible cockpit

First delivery of the UH-1J to the JGSDF was in 1993

The Mitsubishi XF-2B above is operated by the Hiko Kaihatsu Jikkendan at Gifu Air Base
The aircraft wears a non-standard colour scheme with white under-surfaces and is one of the prototype airframes

As you can see the JASDF still operates a variety of YS-11s in differing roles and colour schemes
The aircraft above is a YS-11P operated by 403 Hikotai at Miho and still has the original Rolls-Royce Dart engines

The Japan Coast Guard operate two Gulfstream 5 aircraft. This one is #JA501A and is seen on 12th October 2011
This specialized surveillance and rescue version of the Gulfstream 5 is locally designated 'Umi Washi' (Sea Eagle)
The Gulfstreams are equipped with a high performance airborne surveillance radar, a forward-looking infra-red system

and other search and rescue equipment. With its ultra-long range, high speed and exceptional endurance, it can conduct

missions over large areas both quickly and efficiently

As well as operating the BAe Systems U-125A, the Koku Kyunandan at Hamamatsu also operates the UH-60J Blackhawk in the SAR role

One of 501 Hikotai's RF-4EJ-Kai Phantoms seen on the ramp at Hyakuri Air Base
501 is the only dedicated recce unit in the JASDF, but for some reason didn't fly during our 10 days in Japan

The Kawasaki C-1 is still operated by the JASDF in quite large numbers. However the larger C-2 replacement is now in the pipeline
The C-1 is operated by 402 Hikotai at Iruma and 403 Hikotai at Miho. 31 aircraft were delivered including the single EC-1 variant

Most units within the JASDF operate a few Kawasaki T-4 trainers for liaison purposes
The aircraft above is from 203 Hikotai at Chitose and is seen departing Iruma on 17th October 2011

Delivered in the 3-tone camouflage in the previous photograph,

the C-130s are gradually being re-painted in the overall light blue seen above

The JASDF operates two NAMC YS-11EAs as Electronic Counter-Measures (ECM) & Electronic Warfare (EW) training platforms
#12-1162 is seen departing Iruma on 17th October 2011

#67-8377 from 302 Hikotai taxies in after landing, the low evening sun giving it a lovely golden hue

The other AWACS platform in JASDF service is the Grumman E-2C Hawkeye
In service since 1982 with the Keikai Kokutai at Misawa, the unit's 'Bat' emblem can be seen clearly on the nose of #34-3461 above

This is the closest we got to any F-15s during our stay in Japan

Shot as the sun went down at Hyakuri, these had been on static display at the 'Military Review' that took place there

We discovered later that some had however been flying at Naha during the grounding of the aircraft

What a fantastic sight this was. Nothing like it to see in the skies over Europe and I know for a fact that many people who have visited Japan more than once have not been so fortunate as to see one of these, let alone see one in flight

This CH-47JA Chinook wears the badge of 105 Hikotai and is based at Kisarazu
The Japan Ground Self-defence Force (JGSDF) has taken delivery of 34 CH-47J and 25 CH-47JA models

The Woody Woodpecker badge on Kawasaki T-4 #05-5638 identifies it as being on the strength of 501 Hikotai

#98-1029 is operated by 402 Hikotai at Iruma, where it is seen just after landing
Introduced into service in 1972, it looks like a strategic long-range aircraft, however it is somewhat restricted in that area and in fact the Lockheed C-130H has a longer range

So there we are, whiling away a few hours at Atsugi on a Saturday afternoon having driven back to the Tokyo area after overnighting near Gifu, when we are told by the locals that a flying boat is on its way in. We had been fortunate enough to see a ShinMaywa US-2 returning to Atsugi when we had spent a few hours there earlier in the week, but we are now informed that a US-1A is the 'ship' in question. We also saw another two US-2s land, plus another that was already on base. Four 'boats in one day!

This Kawasaki T-4 belongs to the other Hamamatsu unit 31 Hikotai

It is seen taxying back to the squadron's ramp after landing

As previously mentioned, the Kawasaki T-4 is operated by several units in the JASDF
This one belonging to the Shien Hikotai (Support Squadron) at Iruma Air Base is seen landing at its home base
Iruma is home to the Sotai Shireibu Hikotai (Defence Command HQ Squadron) and has three subordinate units within its structure

The SH-60K (above) is an upgraded version of the SH-60J and entered service from 2005 onward

The cabin section on the aircraft is some 30cm longer and 15cm higher than the J-model

This Bell AH-1S is operated by 5 Anti-Tank Helicopter Squadron at Akeno
The AH-1S is still the primary JGSDF anti-tank helicopter platform and with production of the AH-64DJ now restricted, will probably remain so for the foreseeable future

'Defending the Emperor'


Kawasaki T-4 #96-5625 is from 8 Hikotai, a Mitsubishi F-2 equipped unit based at Misawa
The T-4 replaced the Fuji T-1 and Lockheed T-33 in JASDF service, being introduced from 1988 onwards

The Air Development & Test Wing at Gifu also gets in on the T-7 act with #56-5929
The T-7 is a development of the Fuji T-3 trainer (which it replaced), developed from the Beech T-34 Turbo-Mentor The aircraft bear's a striking resemblance to the T-34C aircraft operated by the US Navy