Here’s Another Cool Video Of Japan’s Last RF-4E Phantoms in Action

An RF-4E of the 501 Hikotai taxies at Hyakuri AB. (Image credit: screenshot from the video embedded below).

We never get tired of videos of the last F-4s coming from Japan!

We have published several videos lately and we will continue to post new ones until the Samurai Phantoms continue to operate in Japan.

As you know, besides Phantom #301, assigned to Air Development and Test Wing (the unit that specializes in pre-operational testing and verification of JASDF equipment) at Gifu Air Base, north of Nagoya, that is also conducting dust collection missions, all the remaining F-4s of the Japanese Air Self Defense Force are stationed at Hyakuri Base. With the retirement of the F-4EJ “Kai” Phantom of the 302nd Squadron, the only remaining F-4 Phantoms units left at Hyakuri are a fighter squadron, the 301 Hikotai, and a reconnaissance squadron, the 501 Hikotai.

The 501 Reconnaissance Squadron of the JASDF is scheduled to cease operations with the mighty “recce” Phantoms and become a fighter unit in March 2020. This means little more than one month of operations is left before the unit retires its F-4EJ and the RF-4E/EJ types. In fact, 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. The Recce unit’s Phantoms have three types of camo schemes: European camouflage (on F-4EJ and RF-4E), Vietnam camouflage (RF-4E), Blue offshore camouflage (RF-4E).

As already explained:

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”.

That said, here’s the latest video from Hyakuri, once again filmed and edited by our friend Akihiro Kanai. It shows the 501 Hikotai’s F-4s launching for three 2-ship missions on the same day last week. Considered the RF-4s haven’t flown very much lately, the clip is remarkable because it offers a view on the very last days of operations of the Phantom in the JASDF.


About David Cenciotti
David Cenciotti is a journalist based in Rome, Italy. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviationist”, one of the world’s most famous and read military aviation blogs. Since 1996, he has written for major worldwide magazines, including Air Forces Monthly, Combat Aircraft, and many others, covering aviation, defense, war, industry, intelligence, crime and cyberwar. He has reported from the U.S., Europe, Australia and Syria, and flown several combat planes with different air forces. He is a former 2nd Lt. of the Italian Air Force, a private pilot and a graduate in Computer Engineering. He has written five books and contributed to many more ones.