Japan. Land of sushi and Fuji, konichiwa and arigato, of geishas, gadgets, yakuza, sake and manga, the excitingly weird and eccentric metropolis that is Tokyo – and above all, land of endless opportunities for aviation photographers such as Robert van Zon. Last month, he boarded a plane bound for Japan and only returned home after stuffing his memory cards with fantastic aviation images from the land of the rising sun. At AIRheads↑FLY, we’ re already looking for the next available flights.
Autumn is usually the time of year for Japanese airshows. On October 27, Tsuiki airbase set the stage for a Japan Air Self-Defense Force (JASDF) airshow, featuring based F-15J Eagles and Mitsubishi F-2 fighter aircraft from Kyushu, the southern main island of Japan. Things are about to change at Tsuiki however, as Japan wishes to reinforce its assets further south at Okinawa. The F-15J Eagles of Tsuiki-based 304 Hikotai will likely move to Okinawa. Their space at Tsuiki will be taken up by additional F-2s from Misawa in the north. This will make Tsuiki ‘Mitsubishi F-2’ heaven in the future.
A few hours by car south of Tsuiki is Kanoya, the place to be for Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) aircraft. Kanoya is the most southern military airfield on the Japanese mainland. Most prominent inmates here are the many P-3C Orions that guard Japans coastal waters. The base also houses helicopters of several types, though.
Want more military choppers? Akeno is where to go in Japan. The airbase is small but houses a large number of army helicopters in varying shapes and sizes. You name it: AH-1 Cobras, UH-1 Hueys, CH-47 Chinooks, AH-64 Apaches, locally developed OH-1 light attack & recce helicopters, OH-6 Cayuses, UH-60 Black Hawks, it’s all there, as is the helicopter pictured below.
If there ever was a prize for great sounding airfield names, Hamamatsu would definitely be a contender. The airbase is home to Boeing E-767 tanker AWACS aircraft, plus large amounts of Kawasaki T-4s, a Japanese crossover between the British Aerospace Hawk and the Dassault Dornier Alpha Jet. On October 20, Hamamatsu hosted an open house.
If you find yourself in Japan and you fancy the ‘special’ stuff, then maybe Gifu is where you should go. The airfield is located north of Nagoya and is home to the Hiko Kaihatsu Jikkendan, which more or less stands for test squadron. In recent years, Gifu was the birth place for aircraft like the Kawasaki P-1 and the Kawasaki C-2, seen below.
Want the good stuff, the noise, the smell, the looks, the raw power of military jets? Then look no further than Hyakuri. This airbase north of Tokyo is a mandatory stop for aviation geeks because of its based F-15J Eagles and F-4EJ and RF-4EJ Phantoms. It doesn’t get much better than that, and bear in mind; the Phantom’s days in JASDF are counting. Their numbers are dwindling and their successor – the F-35A Lightning II – will enter the stage in a few years time.
After Hyakuri, everything else is a bonus. Here’s some dessert from Nagoya Komaki, the airfield that is home to the JASDF C-130 Hercules fleet and Boeing 767 tanker aircraft. Mitsubishi Aircraft performs maintenance here on a variety of military aircraft. Last but not least, all of the 94 Mitsubishi F-2s ordered by the JASDF were built here.
Many, many (and we do mean ‘many’) thanks of course to Robert van Zon for sharing his pictures here at AIRheads↑FLY . We do appreciate contributions by readers!