“Shark 901” is the first RF-4E imported from the United States to Japan in 1974.
The 501 Reconnaissance Squadron of the Japan Air Self Defense Force, based at Hyakuri Air Base, is about to cease operations with its RF-4E/EJ types.
The squadron will be disbanded in March and its flying operations are gradually reducing, as airframes are retired.
The 501 Hikotai is a quite famous squadron: its Woody Woodpecker emblem and the sharkmouth sported by the RF-4E/EJ aircraft make the unit one of the most loved by aviation enthusiasts, spotters and photographers all around the world.
As already explained in many recent posts focusing on the last “Samurai” Phantoms:
The Recce unit’s Phantoms have three types of camo schemes: European camouflage (RF-4EJ), Vietnam camouflage (RF-4E), Blue offshore camouflage (RF-4E).
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”.
The latest video filmed and edited by our friend Akihiro Kanai shows aircraft 47-6901, the first RF-4E aircraft imported from the United States to Japan in 1974.
905 and 913 featured also offshore camouflage paints, but unfortunately they are no longer flying.
By the way, the 501 Hikotai flew its last night mission a couple of weeks ago and here’s another video, filmed by Aki Kanai in his almost unique filming technique, of the last after dark sorties: