The Royal Air Force on Thursday 29 September started one if its largest operations in recent history, deploying Eurofighter Typhoons to the Far East. Meanwhile, the Red Arrows embark on a world tour that takes the team and its twelve Hawk trainer jets to 15 different countries.
The operation is named Eastern Venture and marks the first time Typhoons deploy to countries such as Japan and South Korea. There, the jets take part in military exercises alongside the Japan Air Self Defense Force (JASDF) and Republic of Korea Air Force (ROKAF).
Four Typhoons will fly to Japan with the support of Voyager tanker aircraft and a C-17 cargo aircraft. In Japan, the jets will operate from Misawa airbase in exercise Guardian North 16, that also sees Japanese F-2 and F-15 fighter aircraft participating.
Next, the Typhoons will head to South Korea, undoubtedly as a show of force to neighbouring North Korea. Osan Air Base will host the aircraft, as well as ROKAF F-15s and F-16s. US Air Force F-16s and A-10s are permanently based at Osan.
Meanwhile, the Red Arrows will visit India, China, Thailand, Singapore, Vietnam, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates amongst other countries, taking part in airshows and flying the UK flag.
The first pictures leaked out several weeks ago and the aircraft already took to the skies since, but Friday 23 September saw the official roll out ceremony for the very first Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning II for the Japan Air Self Defense Force (JASDF).
The unveiled aircraft is one of four to be built by Lockheed Martin in Fort Worth, Texas. The remaining 38 JASDF Lightnings will be build in a brand new Final Assembly and Check-Out (FACO) in Nagoya, Japan. Assembly of the first aircraft at this location is very much underway.
Irronically, the jet rolled out on Friday is amongst those suffering from a recently found problem, causing insulation to disolve in the aircraft’s fuel tanks. Dozens of F-35s have been grounded over this.
The introduction of the stealthy jet will mean the beginning of the end for the F-4 Phantom in Japanese service. The remaining F-4 fighters and RF-4 recconaissance jets are now centred at Hyakuri airbase, close to Tokyo. The F-35 will operate in the JASDF alongside Boeing F-15 Eagles and Mitsubishi F-2 jets, all produced locally.
The Japanese are known to paint jets in spectacular colors every now and then, but not so with this new F-35. Even the traditional red Japanese markings have been subdued to grey. Earlier this year, the Israelis – while not afraid to adorn their F-15s and F-16s with nice paint jobs – also refrained so from doing this with the F-35.
It begs the question: which air force will be the first to do some nice color blocking on an F-35?
The Japanese Air Self-Defense Force Mitsubishi (McDonnell Douglas) F-15J/DJ Eagles are facing an update program that is aimed solely at them being able to throw more into the face of advancing Chinese combat pilots.
That is in short the analysis of the Tokyo plans with the spearhead of the Japanese airborne air-defence. Of the more than 220 built F-15J/DJ air supiority fighters the first 40 will see their air-to-air missile load doubled to 16 pieces, half of it short-range, the other half medium-/long-range.
Sweeping the skies
According to sources in Tokyo once airborne these F-15s should be able to stop or slow down a large-scale Chinese air attack, sweeping the skies clean enough of Chinese fighter jets and attack aircraft to last another day. Japan military sources – quoted also by Nikkei – are said to be worried by a more and more active Chinese air force and naval air arm.
Earlier this year the JASDF moved one of its F-15CJ/DJ squadrons from Tsuiki Airbase in the Fukuoka area to Naha Airbase on Okinawa. Although closer to China by at least 215 miles (400 km) it leaves a direct flight line to mainland Japan and Tokyo more open. Apparently Japan is more worried with the Chinese reaching Okinawa for a limited military operation than it is for a large scale long-distance attack further into Japanese airspace.
Naha Air Base now has about 40 F-15CJ/DJ combat jets on strength. They may be the first to carry 16 air-to-air missiles in the near future.
The Japan Air Self Defence Force (JASDF) on Monday 15 August released the first images of its first Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning II. The aircraft is one of four to be built by Lockheed Martin in Fort Worth, Texas. The remaining 38 JASDF Lightnings will be build in a brand new Final Assembly and Check-Out (FACO) in Nagoya, Japan.
According to the JASDF, the first F-35 is to ground tested in Fort Worth in August. Test flights should begin soon after. The introduction of the stealthy jet will be mean the beginning of the end for the F-4 Phantom in Japanese service.
The aircraft formerly known as ATD-X, the X-2 Shinshin, first flew in Japan on Friday 22 April. The aircraft, a stealth technology demonstrator built by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI), took off from Nagoya Airport and went through a series of trials to confirm basic maneuvers including climbing, descent and circling operations. It then landed at nearby Gifu Air Base.
After completing the maiden flight, MHI described the flight experience as “extremely stable’. Control of the aircraft went exactly as in simulated training sessions, the compnay said. MHI also states its positive the X-2 will meet Japan’s Ministry of Defense’s requirements.”
The X-2 is a prototype stealth aircraft engineered for extremely high maneuverability. The prototype integrates an airframe, engines, and other advanced systems and equipment all adaptable to future fighters. The X-2 has been in development since 2009
The future for the aircraft and its technology is by no means clear, however. The Japan Air Self-Defense Force (JASDF) will receive the stealthy Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II in the not-so-far future, replacing ageing F-4 Phantoms. Also, the last military jet developed in Japan by Mitsubishi, the F-2, never proved very successful.