Tag Archives: Japan Air Self Defense Force

U.S. Approves Possible Sale of 34 Lockheed F-35s to Belgium; Japan Deploying First F-35 to Misawa; India Allegedly Enters Conversation.

Based on latest news, it may have been a good weekend for the F-35.

The U.S. State Department issued a statement late Friday confirming it has approved the possible sale of 34 Lockheed F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters to Belgium. The authorization permitting the sale of advanced defense technology is a key step toward completing the actual purchase, quoted to be worth up to “$6.53 billion USD”. The proposed contract with Lockheed Martin, builder of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, would include 38 new Pratt & Whitney advanced F-135 jet engines that power the F-35.

Based on reports Belgium would potentially buy the F-35A variant of the Lightning II, the same variant used by the U.S. Air Force. One of the selling points of buying into the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program is cross-force interoperability. Belgium potentially operating the same variant as the USAF, Dutch and Italians may have been one factor that helped propel the potential deal for Belgium.

Still, the F-35A is still not the replacement for the Belgian Air Force F-16s: the 5th generation aircraft will face competition from the Dassault Rafale and Eurofighter Typhoon in the response to a Request for Governmental Proposal (RfGP) issued by Bruxelles last year.

The decision from Belgium is expected by mid-2018.

Belgium received U.S. authorization for the purchase of the “A” version of the F-35 shown here at Nellis AFB as operated by the USAF. (Photo: Tom Demerly/TheAviationist)


Japan’s Air Self-Defense Force also announced this week it will begin its first-ever deployment of a Japanese ASDF F-35A Lightning II at Misawa Air Base in Aomori Prefecture, northeastern Japan later this month. The single aircraft to be stationed and operated from Misawa is the first of 42 Lockheed F-35A Lighting IIs to be delivered to Japan as their primary multi-role combat aircraft. The JASDF will deploy an additional 9 aircraft operationally to Misawa by the end of 2018 bringing the total Japanese operational F-35A force to 10 aircraft by year’s end.

A key weapon system on the JASDF F-35As will be the advanced, long-range Norwegian-built Kongsberg Defense and Aerospace Gruppen Joint Strike Missile (JSM). The JSM is a variant of the Kongsberg Naval Strike Missile and is carried in the interior weapons bay of the F-35A, maintaining its low observable characteristics. The Kongsberg JSM can strike targets up to 500 kilometers away from its launch point, enabling Japan to strike many potential adversaries without leaving its own airspace, a key concern since Japan’s air force is labeled as a “self-defense force” and constrained from operations outside Japan’s legally defined defense air space in most instances.

Japan’s first F-35 will become operational this month according to Japanese media. (Photo: NHK Japan)

Finally, a story that appeared in India’s Economic Times said that, “American aerospace and defense major Lockheed Martin has proposed to manufacture custom-built F-35 fighter jets in India, which its officials say will give Indian industry a unique opportunity to become part of the world’s largest fighter aircraft ecosystem.”

The story, that appeared in Indian media on Jan. 20, 2018, did not specify what “custom built” F-35s meant, but may hint at a down-spec version of the F-35 airframe with different avionics and sensors than some other export manufactured versions of the F-35 to maintain security interests.  The same article discussed the use of the AN/APG-83 radar system, different from the AN/APG-81 on the U.S. and other partner nation F-35s.

There is no additional verification of any Indian F-35 manufacturing program in other media outlets. Oddly, another Indian media outlet, the Free Press Journal of India, published a similar story on the same day claiming the U.S. planned to build F-16s (not F-35s) in India. The Free Press Journal of India story read, “American aerospace and defense major Lockheed Martin has proposed to manufacture custom-built F-16 fighter jets (ed’s note: not F-35s as quoted in the India Economic Times article) in India, which its officials say will give Indian industry a unique opportunity to become part of the world’s largest fighter aircraft ecosystem.”

Confusing press coming out of India aside, Lockheed Martin and all of the F-35 subcontractors have to be pleased to start out the new year with a host of encouraging stories about the F-35 program.

Update Jan. 22, 19.30 GMT:

We were notified that the original version of a Press Trust of India article posted late last week, has since been corrected to remove the erroneous “F-35” reference in the first sentence of the article—see corrected article here: https://www.ndtv.com/india-news/lockheed-martin-proposes-custom-built-fighter-jets-to-be-made-in-india-1802538. The first sentence of PTI’s article now reads:

“American aerospace and defence firm Lockheed Martin has proposed to manufacture custom-built F-16 fighter jets in India, which its officials say will give the Indian industry a unique opportunity to become part of the world’s largest fighter aircraft ecosystem.”


Japanese F-4EJ Kai Phantom II Heavily Damaged in Runway Accident, Crew Escapes Fire

Hyakuri Phantom Burns on Ground, Reports Suggest Aircraft Written Off.

A McDonnell-Douglas F-4EJ “Kai” Phantom II attached to either the 301st or 302nd Tactical Fighter Squadron of the 7th Air Wing of the Japanese Air Self-Defense Force has burned on the ground at Hyakuri Air Base in the Ibaraki Prefecture of Japan. Both crew members escaped from the burning aircraft by climbing out as the fire spread.

The aircraft was taxing at the time of the accident. Press reports suggest the aircraft will be written off as a total loss. The accident happened at 11:45 AM local time in Japan on Oct. 17, 2017.

According to Japanese media and official Japanese Air Self-Defense Force reports the aircraft was participating in a training exercise in the northeastern part of Kanto, on Japan’s main island of Honshu.

The aircraft has been reported as written-off. (Photo: World Military News)

Civilian flight operations at the attached Ibaraki Airport, which shares a runway with the Hyakuri Air Base where the accident occurred, were unaffected by the fire according to reports. Ibaraki and the attached Hyakuri Air Base are 53 miles north of the Japanese capital, Tokyo. The facility operates two parallel runways, both 2,700 meters in length.

The Japanese Air Self-Defense Force is one of the few remaining users of the legacy McDonnell-Douglas F-4 Phantom II. The aircraft, built under license and serviced by Mitsubishi in Japanese service, performs a multi-role mission that includes tactical reconnaissance in the RF-4EJ version and attack roles in the F-4EJ configuration.

Video and still photos of the accident showed the two-person aircrew escaping from the aircraft by climbing out of the cockpit close to flames and heavy smoke.

The Japanese Air Self-Defense Force (JASDF) once operated 138 F-4 Phantom II’s as one of the largest international users of the prolific multi-role combat aircraft. The first Japanese F-4’s joined the 301st Hikotai Squadron in August of 1972 and have been operational ever since. There are a reported 71 Mitsubishi/McDonnell-Douglas F-4 Phantom II’s of two versions remaining in JASDF service as of April, 2017 according to Flightglobal Insight.

The Japanese F-4 Phantoms are revered among aircraft spotters worldwide as being among the last of the operational F-4 Phantoms still flying and also because of their colorful paint liveries in Japanese service that include a variety of camouflage schemes as well as solid grey aircraft like aircraft 87-8408 that was destroyed in this accident.

Top Image: A crewman escapes from burning JASDF F-4EJ Phantom II yesterday at Hyakuri Air Base. (Photo: World Military News)


These Aircraft Sampled Air For Radioactive Particles To Determine If North Korea Actually Detonated A Hydrogen Bomb

No traces of radioactive materials, including xenon gas, were detected following North Korea’s latest nuclear test. Here are the aircraft that helped determining that.

On Sunday Aug. 3, North Korea conducted its sixth and most powerful nuclear test. According to Pyongyang the test involved a hydrogen bomb that can be loaded onto a long-range missile.

The test was anticipated and observed by different intelligence gathering platforms, including U.S. spyplanes launched from Japan and South Korea, whereas air-sampling equipment installed on planes, ships and land radiation detection stations was used to look for any traces of radionuclides released after the nuclear test.

South Korea’s nuclear safety agency said it has detected no traces of radioactive materials, including xenon gas, following North Korea’s latest nuclear test: South Korea’s background radiation currently remains at the usual level of 50-300 nanosieverts per hour, apparently unaffected by the North’s nuclear test, Yonhap News Agency reported.

Interestingly the air sampling activity was carried out by at least two type of aircraft.

First of all, the quite famous WC-135 Constant Phoenix “nuclear sniffer”. The WC-135C 62-3582 was tracked as it crossed the Pacific to forward deploy to Kadena, Okinawa, from where it has alsways operated in the last months.


Then, the aircraft was tracked flying over Japan’s west coast in the morning on Sept. 6.

The aircraft is one of the two WC-135 Constant Phoenix aircraft in service today (out of 10 examples operated since the 1960s). It’s a Boeing C-135 transport and support plane derivative, operated by the 45th Reconnaissance Squadron from Offutt Air Force Base, with mission crews staffed by Detachment 1 from the Air Force Technical Applications Center.

As already reported here in the past, the WC-135 flies in direct support of the U.S. Atomic Energy Detection System, a global network of nuclear detection sensors that monitor underground, underwater, space-based or atmospheric events.

The aircraft is equipped with external flow devices used to collect airborne particulate on filter paper. The particulate samples are collected using a device that works like an old jukebox: an arm grabs the paper from its slot and moves it to the exterior of the fuselage. After exposure, it is returned to the filter magazine where a new paper is selected for use.

The mission crews have the ability to analyze the fallout residue in real-time, helping to confirm the presence of nuclear fallout and possibly determine the characteristics of the warhead involved.

WC-135W Constant Phoenix, 55th W, 45th RS, 61-2667 (Credit: AircraftProfilePrints.com)

The WC-135 62-3582 is the same aircraft that completed a “tour” in Europe, earlier this year, when it conducted several missions both in the Barents Sea area and in the Mediterranean Sea until mid March amid speculations that the aircraft had been deployed to RAF Mildenhall because of an alleged spike in Iodine levels around Norway. However, the “nuke hunter” plane was on a “pre-planned rotational deployment scheduled in advance,” according to the Air Force spokeswoman Erika Yepsen.

Interestingly, not only did the U.S. WC-135 aircraft flew to take air samples to test for radioactive particles. As already done in the past, Japan launched some T-4 training jets, equipped with collection pods, to gather air samples.

A Kawasaki T-4 (Credit: Toshiro Aoki / www.jp-spotters.com)

Actually, JASDF is able to leverage a small fleet of aircraft to perform this task: for instance, in January 2016, the day after a North Korea nuclear test, Japan deployed a C-130 Hercules airlifter and four T-4 subsonic intermediate jet trainer aircraft to gather air samples and detect radioactive particles.

To collect particles across the country, T-4 equipped with pods were launched from different bases across Japan: Misawa, Hyakuri and Tsuiki airbases located in the districts of Aomori (north), Ibaraki (central), and Fukuoka (south) respectively.

Top image credit: Ken H / @chippyho and Wikimedia Commons

U.S., Chinese And Russian Bombers Each Flew Air Patrols Over East China, Sea Of Japan Close To The Korean Peninsula In Last 24 Hours

Even the Russian Tu-95 Bears made a rare tour close to South Korea’s airspace yesterday.

Two Russian Tu-95MS strategic bombers briefly violated South Korea’s air defense identification zone (KADIZ) on Wednesday, prompting the country’s fighter jets to scramble to shadow the “intruders” for a few miles. The episode it’s worth of note since unlike the U.S. bombers, the Russian rarely fly close to the Korean peninsula.

Generally speaking an ADIZ is “the airspace over land or water in which the identification, location and control of civilian aircraft is performed in the interest of national security.”

ADIZs may extend beyond a country’s territory to give the country more time to respond to possible hostile aircraft: in fact any aircraft flying inside these zones without authorization may be identified as a threat and treated as an enemy aircraft, leading to an interception and VID (Visual Identification) by fighter aircraft.

“As the Russian aircraft entered the KADIZ in formation yesterday morning, a squadron of our Air Force jets made an emergency sorties,” said an officer to South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency.

The Russian planes, however, did not intrude into South Korea’s aerospace, he added.

According to the Russian MoD, during the trip the Russian Bears were accompanied by Russian Sukhoi Su-35S fighter jets and A-50 early warning and control aircraft. The flight was also intercepted by the Japan Air Self Defense Force.

Russia does not acknowledge the air defense identification zones of neighboring countries. Sometimes, its warplanes enter the zones which are a sort of defense-purpose concept neither stipulated in any state-to-state treaty nor regulated by any international body. As happened on the night of May 3, 2017, when a “mini-package” made of two Tu-95MS Bear bombers, escorted by two Su-35S Flanker-E jets, and supported by an A-50 Mainstay, flew inside the Alaskan ADIZ (Air Defense Identification Zone) and were intercepted by two U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptors some 50 NM to the south of Chariot, Alaska.

However, the Russian Bears were not the only bombers to fly in the region during the last 24 hours. Indeed, on Aug. 24, the JASDF had to intercept six Chinese Xian H-6K long-range strategic bombers (south of the KADIZ). Here below you can see the track they followed skirting Japan.

A more constant presence in the area are the U.S. B-1B Lancer bombers providing support to the CBP (Continuous Bomber Presence) from Andersen Air Force Base, Guam. According to the reports, two “Bones” flew from Guam to South Korea on Aug. 24.

Indeed, U.S. B-52 and B-2 bombers routinely fly nuclear deterrence missions in the Asia-Pacific theater from both CONUS bases and Andersen Air Force Base in Guam. Sometimes, they also intrude the Chinese ADIZ: in November 2013, a flight of two U.S. B-52 bombers departed from Guam airbase entered the new Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) over East China Sea close to the disputed islands without complying with any of the rules set by Beijing for the ADIZ. In that case, the mission intentionally skirted the disputed Diaoyu Islands (known as Senkaku islands in Japan).

A big thank you to @phxasc for the heads-up!

Top image credit: Sputnik News




The First Japanese-Built F-35A Unveiled At Nagoya Production Facility In Japan

AX-5, the first Japanese-assembled F-35A was unveiled in Nagoya Japan earlier today.

The first F-35A assembled in Japan, AX-5 “79-8705”, was unveiled out of the Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) Komaki South F-35 Final Assembly and Check Out (FACO) facility on Jun. 5.

Just like the Italian F-35 FACO in Cameri, the Japan F-35 FACO is operated by a local aerospace company, MHI. with technical assistance from Lockheed Martin and oversight from the U.S. Government.

According to a LM release, approximately 200 people attended the ceremony including Japanese and United States government and defense industry leaders.

“Seeing the first Japanese built F-35A is a testament to the global nature of this program”, said Vice Adm. Mat Winter, F-35 Program Executive Officer. “This state of the art assembly facility, staffed with a talented and motivated workforce, enables us to leverage industry’s unique talents and technological know-how to produce the world’s best multi-role fighter. The F-35 will enhance the strength of our security alliances and reinforce long-established bonds with our allies through training opportunities, exercises, and military-to-military events.”

The Japanese Ministry of Defense selected the Joint Strike Fighter as the Japan Air Self-Defense Force’s next-generation air defense fighter in December 2011, with a Foreign Military Sales program of 42 F-35As. The first four JASDF F-35As were previously delivered from the Fort Worth, Texas production facility. Subsequent deliveries of 38 F-35A aircraft will come from the FACOin Japan.

Additionally, the U.S. Department of Defense selected the Nagoya FACO in 2014 for the North Asia-Pacific regional heavy airframe Maintenance Repair Overhaul & and Upgrade (MROU) facility.

The JASDF’s  low visibility “Hinomaru” roundel applied to the F-35A AX-5 and visible in top image (by Thinh Nguyen, Lockheed Martin) appears to be slightly more evident and recognizable than the one sported by the first JASDF F-35A (AX-1) that was rolled out at prime contractor Lockheed Martin’s Dallas-Fort Worth plant on Sept. 23, 2016 (see image below).

A screenshot from the video of the roll-out ceremony for the first JASDF F-35A on Sept. 23, 2016.