Here are the F-4EJ and RF-4E/EJ jets launching from Hyakuri at the beginning of their last operational year in the JASDF (Japanese Air Self Defense Force).
Fantastic (or if you prefer, considered the topic, “Phantastic”) footage continues to be produced by our good friend Akihiro Kanai who’s been filming the JASDF Phantoms (and other Japanese types..) for years now. His peculiar clips, featuring many slow motions scenes, always attract the interest of Phantom fans and aviation enthusiasts all around the world.
The latest work from “Aki”, is a sort of documentary of the first missions flown by the Samurai Phantoms at the beginning of 2020, after the holiday break of about 10 days during the year-end and New Year holidays. Indeed, during this period, no training mission is flown and only alert missions, supported by minimal staff, are launched in the very first days of the year.
In 2020, the training missions started on Jan. 6 with engine run-up of all the serviced aircraft; flight activity started on the next day, and the following video shows the activities carried out on those days by the only remaining F-4 Phantoms units left at Hyakuri are a fighter squadron, the 301 Hikotai, and a reconnaissance squadron, the 501 Hikotai (in fact, the 302nd Squadron made its last flight with the type on Mar. 19, 2019 and then moved to Misawa air base to operate the JASDF F-35A 5th generation aircraft beginning on Mar. 26, 2019).
While the 301 Squadron flies the grey F-4EJ “Kai” Phantom with the squadron emblem, a frog, on the tail; the 501 Reconnaissance Squadron is equipped with both the F-4EJ and the RF-4E/EJ types that sport the sharkmouth and the unit’s woodpecker mark on the tail. In fact, the Recce units has three types of camo schemes: European camouflage (on F-4EJ and RF-4E), Vietnam camouflage (RF-4E), Blue offshore camouflage (RF-4E).
The 501 Reconnaissance squadron is scheduled to cease operations and become a fighter unit in March 2020 whereas the 301 Hikotai is slated to move to Misawa to become the second F-35A unit later in 2020.
The F-4EJ “Kai” (“extra”) is the latest Japanese variant of the Phantom that has been modernized from the EJ version in the mid-1980s with the installation of a new AN/APG-66J pulse-Doppler radar, a new central computer, a Kaiser HUD (Head Up Display), an AN/APZ-79 IFF system, as well as the ability to carry an AN/ALQ-131 advanced multimode electronic countermeasures pod and to launch the AIM-7E/F Sparrow and the AIM-9L/P Sidewinder AAMs (air-to-air missiles). The RF-4EJ is the reconnaissance version of the F-4E. It’s almost identical to the USAF RF-4C but it lacks a few systems (such as the radar homing and warning receiver suite) which were not released for export to Japan. The upgraded variant of the original RF-4EJ is designated RF-4EJ “Kai”.