I’ll open this report with the statement, that from 1988 through to 1992 I was a resident of Kobe Japan. I grew up watching the Shin Meiwa PS-1 and US-1A flying boat take off from Kobe harbour. It was a great sight and sound and one which I’ll never forget. So the passion for the JASDF is a long and deep seated one. And after many years I was so happy to be back where I spent a portion of my youth watching the Japanese Aviators. Though I had never been to Hamamatsu it certainly felt like at times like going back to those early childhood memories.
The base is located 5.6 km North of the city of Hamamatsu, Shizuoka Prefecture, in central Japan.
Hamamatsu Air Base was established in 1925 as an Imperial Japanese Army Air Force base to be home to the newly formed IJAAF No.7 Air Regiment. In 1933, it was designated as the primary flight school for Japanese army aviation. After the end of fighting in World War Two , the base facilities were used as an emergency landing strip by the United States Air Force, and were returned to the Japanese government in 1952 for use as a flight training school for the Japan Air Self-Defense Force.
The training syllabus was transformed in 1954 into separate schools for flight training, aircraft maintenance and communications. The base was divided into northern and southern areas in 1958, with the operational area in the north housing the 1st Air Wing, and from 1960, the Blue Impulse aerobatic squadron and the southern area housing the administrative and training facilities.
The Blue Impulse squadron was transferred to Matsushima Air Base in 1981, however this was marred when the team suffered a fatal mid-air collision during a farewell performance at Hamamatsu in 1982.
The First Air Wing transitioned from Lockheed T-33A trainers to Kawasaki T-4 trainers in 1988. In 1989, the northern and southern halves of the base were reunited into a single administrative entity. From 1998, Hamamatsu Air Base became the home base of Japan’s squadron of Boeing E-767 AWACS aircraft.
In 1999, an aviation museum, the JASDF Hamamatsu Air Base Publication Centre (航空自衛隊浜松広報館 Hamamatsu Kōhōkan), was established. We have a separate report on this coming up soon!
Aircraft and Squadrons:
The squadrons and units based at Hamamatsu include the following:
- 1st Air Wing
- 31st Training Squadron flying the Kawasaki T-4
- 32nd Training Squadron flying the Kawasaki T-4
- Airborne Early Warning Group
- 602nd Squadron flying the Boeing E-767
- Air Basic Training Wing
- Air Rescue Wing Hamamatsu Detachment flying the U-125A and UH-60J
- Hamamatsu Anti-Aircraft Missile Group
- Air Officer Training School
- 1st & 2nd Technical School
- Air Training Aids Group
- Air Traffic Control Group
- Air Weather Service Group
- Hamamatsu Air Police Group
This report will take in two days of flying including the practice day display by the Blue Impulse display team.
As noted in the first report about JASDF Iruma, The Kawasaki T-4 is the JASDF’s primary jet trainer. A number are on strength at various squadrons as ‘hacks’. Some 208 aircraft were eventually delivered for service. Both the 31st and 32nd Training Squadrons are based at Hamamatsu flying the type. A 31 Squadron aircraft is identified by a blue stripe under the yellow and black chequer board and 32 with the red line.
Beechcraft T-400 Jayhawk
Once the T-4s were on the ground it was time to watch a handling display from type I hadn’t seen since an airshow in the United States. The Beechcraft T-400 Jayhawk. Operated by the 41st Flight Training Squadron, the dai41kyouikuhikoutai is a training squadron of the 3rd Tactical Airlift Group. Equipped with 13 of the T-400 Jayhawk aircraft. The squadron trains JASDF pilots who will go on to fly large jet aircraft like the Kawasaki C-1, Kawasaki C-2, KC-767 and E-767.
Raytheon (Hawker) U-125A
Another type converted from a biz jet platform for military service is the Raytheon (Hawker) U-125A. The U-125 search-and-rescue variant of the Hawker 800, was engineered and equipped for the maritime search-and-rescue duties that the JASDF require. Features such as large observation windows on either side of the fuselage, a Toshiba 360-degree radar system, Melco thermal imaging equipment (TIE) system, a flare and marker-buoy dispenser, life raft and an emergency equipment dropping system. Other features include a comprehensive suite of communications equipment and enhanced protection against the salt water environment in which the aircraft operate.
Fourteen Hawkers were ordered initially for the search and rescue role. Operated by the Air Rescue Wing, which headquarters in Iruma, all units operate and fly both the U-125A and UH-60J.
Aircraft are based at the following;
|Air Rescue Wing (HQ: Iruma) Detachments (All are equipped with the U-125A and UH-60J)|
|Chitose, Hokkaido||Matsushima, Miyagi||Ashiya, Fukuoka|
|Akita, Akita||Hyakuri, Ibaraki||Nyutabaru, Miyazaki|
|Niigata, Niigata||Hamamatsu, Shizuoka||Naha, Okinawa|
|Komatsu, Ishikawa||Komaki, Aichi (Training Sqn)|
Sikorsky UH-60J Blackhawk
As mentioned above all base units have UH-60J Blackhawks. A licence built version of the Sikorsky type, Japanese examples where built by local subsidiary Mitsubishi Heavy industries. To date some 178 have been built.
A unique aircraft within the JASDF Fleet, the Boeing E-767 was designed in response to the Japan Air Self-Defence Force’s requirements. Taking the Boeing E-3 Sentry’s surveillance radar and air control system and then installed on a Boeing 767-200 airframe. The JASDF took delivery of the first aircraft on March 11, 1998 along with the second E-767. The third and fourth aircraft were delivered in January 1999. Operated as part of the Airborne Early Warning Group (AEWG), and flown by 602nd Squadron which is based at Hamamatsu Air Base.
McDonnell-Douglas (Boeing) F-15J/DJ Eagle
The JASDF took delivery of its first US assembled F-15J on the July 15 1980. The first assembled aircraft made at the Mitsubishi Industries plant at Komaki was handed over on the 19th August 1981. To date some 223 aircraft of the F-15J and F-15D/J Eagles have been delivered for service. The JASDF ordered the fourth generation interceptor to replace the large numbers of Lockheed F-104J Starfighters and McDonnell-Douglas F-4EJs in service. The last of which rolled of the production line in 1997. The aircraft has equipped many squadrons over time this includes:
- 2nd Air Wing Chitose Air Base
- 201st Tactical Fighter Squadron (1986-)
- 203rd Tactical Fighter Squadron (1983-)
- 6th Air Wing Komatsu Air Base
- 303rd Tactical Fighter Squadron (1987-)
- 306th Tactical Fighter Squadron (1997-)
- 5th Air Wing Nyutabaru Air Base
- 202nd Tactical Fighter Squadron (1981-2000)
- 305th Tactical Fighter Squadron (1993-)
- 9th Air Wing Naha Air Base
- 204th Tactical Fighter Squadron (1984-)
- 304th Tactical Fighter Squadron (1990-)
- Air Development and Test Wing
- 23rd Flying Training Squadron (2000-)
During the airshow a single example, 55-8853 a F-15DJ operated by the 23rd Flying Training Squadron which is part of the Air Development and Test Wing did the performance.
McDonnell Douglas F-4EJ Phantom II
Now in its twilight years of service, The McDonnell-Douglas F-4E Phantom II. Japan selected the F-4 Phantom II as its new fighter at the end of the 1960s. Japan became one of the few countries that license-produced this aircraft outside the USA. a total of 154 F-4EJ and RF-4Es. The F-4EJs were built almost entirely by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, the RF-4Es were bought directly from McDonnell-Douglas. The Phantom has served with a number of Units with retirement scheduled in 2021. The aircraft will be replaced with a mix of F-2s and F-35 Lighting II’s. Units to fly the aircraft includes:
- 8th Hikōtai
- 301st Hikōtai
- 302nd Hikōtai
- 303rd Hikōtai
- 304th Hikōtai
- 305th Hikōtai
- 306th Hikōtai
- 501st Hikōtai
During the show F-4EJ aircraft 47-8336 performed a great display was from the 23rd Flying Training Squadron which is part of the Air Development and Test Wing.
After the Phantom display which was loud and impressive anything else would almost seem lack lustre. However a nine ship formation of Kawasaki T-4s wasn’t half bad.
After the main displays there was a break for lunch, during this period I headed into the main base to record the day’s activities.
The base was full of interesting displays, this included several T-4s in various degrees of servicing.
The Mitsubishi F-2 is a multirole fighter derived from the General Dynamics F-16 Fighting Falcon, and manufactured by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and Lockheed Martin, with a 60/40 split in manufacturing between Japan and the United States. Production started in 1996 and the first aircraft entered service in 2000. The first 76 aircraft entered service in 2008, with a total of 94 airframes produced. On display at the show was an F-2 from the 1st Training School. The primary role of the 1st TS is to provide the full gamut of technical training on the maintenance of the aircraft in service with the JASDF and the weapons with which the combat aircraft types are armed.
Bell AH-J Cobra
Northrop Grumman E-2 Hawkeye
The JASDF purchased thirteen E-2C aircraft to improve its early warning capabilities. The E-2C was put into service with the Airborne Early Warning Group (AEWG) at Misawa Air Base in January 1987. 89iuIn June 2015, the Japanese government requested to buy four E-2Ds through a Foreign Military Sale. A follow up order placed in September 2018, by the Defence Security Cooperation Agency notified Congress of the possible sale of up to 9 E-2Ds to Japan.
The Kawasaki C-2 is a long range twin-engine transport aircraft. In comparison with the older C-1 that it replaces, the C-2 can carry payloads up to four times heavier. Powered by a pair of General Electric CF6-80C2K turbofan engines. Some 40 examples are on order.
The Finale- The Blue Impulse Display Team
As the airshow drew to a close the hype for the next performance was very noticeable. People standing to see the crews prepare to depart, waving as they taxied out and people rushing to gain a better view as the Blue Impulse display team set about wowing the attendees. The teams flew several different displays involving up to six aircraft, solo displays and four ship formations. The team currently operated by number 11 Squadron, part of the 4th Air Wing is based at Matsushima Air Base.
Another great adventure to another Japanese base, I hope you all enjoyed this over view of the event. In out next instalment it will cover the JASDF Museum at Hamamatsu. Lots of interesting aircraft and helicopters.
See Part One of Dave’s series of Japanese Air Base visits HERE
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