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Japan 2019 02

Japan 2019 12

Japan's Self Defence Force has the Herculean task of protecting the vast area of the Motherland and its many islands. They achieve this with a compact, dedicated and modern armed forces. Well-liked by aviation enthusiasts because of the variety of aircraft, the photographic opportunities and the friendly local approach to aviation photography. Stunning aircraft can be encountered like this YS-11EB electronic warfare aircraft operated by the Denshi Sakusengun (Electronic Warfare Operations Group) out of Iruma.

Japan 2019 00

Most numerous fighter aircraft used for Air Defence is still the F-15J. Seven frontline squadrons (Hikotai) use these, 201 and 203 Hikotai from Chitose, 303 and 306 Hikotai from Komatsu, 204 and 304 from Naha and, 305 Hikotai from Nyutabaru. Non-front line units operating the type are the operational conversion unit, 23 Hikotai resorting under the Air Training Command (Koku Kyoiku Shudan) at Nyutabaru, the infamous adversary tactics squadron (Hiko Kyodogun) at Komatsu and, the test unit (Hiko Kaihatsu Jikken Dan) at Gifu. Pictured here is a 306 Hikotai machine on temporary duty with the test unit at Gifu.

Japan 2019 09

In contrast, iconic aircraft like the F-4EJ are on the way out being replaced with the F-15 and F-35. Last of the many are the F-4EJ of 301 Hikotai and the RF-4E and EJ from 501 Hikotai. Also, the aformentioned test unit at Gifu operates a bunch of them still. The recce Phantoms stand out because they are camouflaged in various schemes like RF-4EJ 67-6380, modified from an F-4EJ, seen here in a scheme reminiscent of the US "European One" camouflage...

Japan 2019 08

...and more familiar and very smart three tone tan and green camouflage as demonstrated by 1974 legacy RF-4E 47-6903, also with 501's Woody Woodpecker badge on the tail, just visbile peeping over the starboard wing.

Japan 2019 10

Japan has developed its own tactical transports. This C-1 is on the verge of being replaced with the C-2, both were developed indigenously. Although that may cost more than buying "off the shelf" the Japanese maintain employment, keep the knowledge and experience at a high level and are more self sufficient in that way.

Japan 2019 03

Speaking of that, the F-2 is another indigenous design. Well, sort of. It is based on the F-16 and was developed by Mitsubishi in co-operation with Lockheed-Martin. It is a slighlty beefed-up and improved F-16. The program as a whole was quite costly, also because the planned numbers were not bought; just 98 mwere produced instead of 141. Obviously, it is of immense importance for the Japanese aircraft industry. Lastly, it was the first aircraft to field an active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar back in 1995, and also introduced this two-hue blue colour scheme. The F-2B dual seat aircraft 23-8108 seen here, was damaged in the Tsunami of 11 March 2011 but was repaired and subsequently returned to service by September 2015. It now lives at Gifu and therefore bears the Hiko Kaihatsu Jikken Dan markings.

Japan 2019 11

Strange shapes can be found in Japan too. The Shin Meiwa flying boats are striking, and rather unique after China stopped flying their SH-5 amphibians. In Japan it started with the PS-1 Anti-Submarine Warfare aircraft in the late sixties. These were modified for the Search and Rescue role and dubbed US-1. They were succeeded by the upgraded US-2 and these are all with the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force's 71 Hikotai flying from Iwakuni. This 9901 is one of them but is seen here landing at Atsugi. No more white with dayglow on these unfortunately, but equally impressive nonetheless!

Japan 2019 01

From an oddity, we move on to a rarity. Although all BK117/EC145/H145 or whatever they are called these days, are actually born in Japan in the Kawasaki factory, that still builds the main structures, the Defence Force only has two of these on strength. Seen here is 6001 used by the Acquisition, Technology and Logistics Agency (hence ATLA on its fin). The other one, 0502, is white with blue trim. The former Technical Research and Development Institute (TRDI) was absorbed into ATLA by 2015.

 Japan 2019 06

 The Japan Ground Self Defence Force has acquired no less than 92 AH-1S Cobras. Around 65 of these are still active.

Japan 2019 07

Despite the acquisition of thirteen AH-64 Apaches and the OH-1 helicopter program, there is no real successor to the AH-1S yet. So we will be able to enjoy this sight for many years to come.

Japan 2019 05

The backbone of the Army aviation is still the UH-1J, with some 130 in operation. However, the Ground Self Defence Force also obtained a fleet of 40 UH-60JA Black Hawks.

Japan 2019 04

So, of course go there to watch the last of the Phantoms, but do not forget to sample some of the other local specialties we dished out for you here to enjoy!