Tag Archives: Japan Air Self Defense Force

Japan Air Self-Defence Force Unveils New Special Colored F-4EJ Phantom at Hyakuri

Here’s a brand new special Phantom from JASDF.

Japan’s Air Force 302 Hikotai (Tactical Fighter Squadron) of the 7th Air Wing of the Japanese Air Self-Defense Force based at Hyakuri Air Base in the Ibaraki Prefecture of Japan plans to move to Misawa in February next year. At that time, the squadron, that has already started retiring its Phantoms, will start operations with the F-35A Lightning II 5th generation aircraft.

Until then, 302 Hikotai will continue to operate with the F-4EJ “Kai” (“extra”) variant, a modernized version of the original F-4EJ that features among the other things, the AN/APG-66J pulse-Doppler radar, 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).

But before moving to Misawa, the unit has prepared a new special painted Phantom (07-8428) that was unveiled to the public with a post on Twitter on Jul. 3. The aircraft sports a large red bird on a white background as well as the traditional bird badge of the 302 on the tail (that is a very stylised representation of the Hikotai number: head and body being the ‘3’, the white tail ‘0’ and the blue wings the ‘2’)

On Dec. 2, 2018, Hyakuri Airbase will celebrate the end of the 302 Hikotai’s operations with the F-4 with an airshow.

Beginning next year, the JASDF will operate only two Phantom squadrons at Hyakuri: 301 Hikotai with F-4EJs and 501 Hikotai with a variety of RF-4E and RF4EJ used in the reconnaissance role. The last flight of a “Samurai” Phantom should be in March 2021.

Image credit: JASDF/302th TFS

Footage Of Japan’s New Kawasaki C-2 ELINT Variant Operating From Iruma Air Base Emerges

New footage shows the intelligence gathering aircraft at Iruma Air Base.

Footage and photographs have emerged of the Japanese Kawasaki C-2 Electronic Intelligence variant (also dubbed “RC-2”) operating at Iruma Air Base, north of western Tokyo, Japan.

The aircraft, a heavily modified baseline C-2 tactical transport aircraft with a modified nose section and large fairings top of the tail, fuselage and sides of it, as well as several antennas underneath the fuselage, is serialled 18-1202 and was first spotted undergoing taxi tests and first flights at Japan Air Self-Defense Force base at Gifu, home of JASDF’s Air Development and Test Command and Kawasaki Heavy Industries facility, at the beginning of February 2018. The C-2 ELINT is going to replace the obsolete JASDF’s YS-11EB ELINT aircraft.

All the enlarged fairings on the C-2 ELINT testbed 18-1202. Not visible in this screenshot are the antennas located underneath the fuselage. (Modified screenshot from video below).

Interestingly, on Jun. 26, the “RC-2” visited Iruma, where the NAMC YS-11EB of the Electronic Intelligence Squadron are based:

The following video shows the C-2 ELINT taxiing and taking off from Iruma Air Base:

Little is known about the intelligence gathering variant of the C-2: considered that it will be an ELINT/COMINT (Electronic Intelligence/Communication Intelligence) platform, it’s safe to assume will be equipped with sensors and antennas required to collect signals from distance, process the data to classify and geo-locate it and then store or share the information to other aerial, naval or ground assets. More or less what other modern (or ageingspyplanes do.

The NAMC YS-11EB is the aircraft the C-2 ELINT will replace. (Credit: Toshi Aoki – JP Spotters)

Noteworthy, the first trip to Iruma made the C-2 ELINT aircraft trackable by means of ADS-B/Mode-S transponder. The track collected by our friend @CivMilAir shows the aircraft arriving from Gifu to Iruma on Jun. 26:

The part of track showing the C-2 ELINT on its way to Iruma Air Base. (Credit: @CivMilAir)

Top image: screenshot from @amuro1415 video on Twitter.

This Outstanding Footage Celebrates Retirement of F-4EJ “Kai” Phantom II 47-8333 “Tora-San” After 44 Years

A very special Japan Air Self Defense Force F-4EJ Phantom.

On Apr. 11, 2018, Japan’s Air Force retired one its F-4EJ “Kai” Phantom II jets: the example serialled 47-8333/”333″ assigned to the 302nd Tactical Fighter Squadron of the 7th Air Wing of the Japanese Air Self-Defense Force based at Hyakuri Air Base in the Ibaraki Prefecture of Japan.

The aircraft served with the JASDF for 44 years. Originally an F-4EJ, it was upgraded to the “Kai” (“extra”) variant during the mid ’80s, as part of a modernization program that included, among the other things, 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).

According to one of our readers who pointed us to the video below, the aircraft 47-8333, usually called “Triple 3”, was often called “Trouble 3” as a consequence of some issues it suffered. On the very last day of activity before the retirement, the splitter vane of the “333” sported the text “Tora-san, Thank you”: indeed, this aircraft got the name Tora-san, the loveable character of the Japanese movie series “Otoko wa Tsurai yo (It’s tough being a man)”, the world’s longest running film series.

H/T Akihiro Kanai for sending this over to us. Top image: screenshot from 1-300 Youtube video.

Lockheed Martin to Propose 5th Gen F-22/F-35 Hybrid to Japan.

New Proposed Stealth Hybrid Fighter to Expand Japanese Fighter Capability. Re-opening the F-22 Production Line might be an option too.

Late Friday, April 20, Reuters journalists Tim Kelly and Nobuhiro Kubo reported that Lockheed Martin will propose a new 5th generation low-observable (stealth) combat aircraft to Japan. According to Kelly and Kubo’s article, the two sources who provided the information to Reuters have direct knowledge of the upcoming proposal.

According to the sources with direct knowledge of the program quoted in the April 20 Reuters story, “Lockheed has discussed the idea with Japanese defense ministry officials and will make a formal proposal in response to a Japanese request for information (RFI) after it receives permission from the U.S. government to offer the sensitive military technology.”

Reuters quoted one of the two unnamed sources as telling them, “The proposed aircraft would combine the F-22 and F-35 and could be superior to both of them.”

The F-22 Raptor is only used by the United States Air Force and is not exported because some of its capabilities remain a national security asset. The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter was originally conceived as an export project to provide cost sharing and capability commonality between partner nations as a force multiplier.

The new Japanese aircraft to be proposed by Lockheed Martin will be an air superiority aircraft with a similar role to the F-22 Raptor.

The Japanese rolled out their first domestically built F-35A Joint Strike Fighter from Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Komaki South F-35 Final Assembly and Check Out (FACO) facility on June 5, 2017. Lockheed Martin built four of the first Japanese F-35s in the U.S. and delivered them to Japan. The remaining 38 of 42 total F-35As Japan has planned will be built at the Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Komaki South facility. Mitsubishi was the builder of the famous A6M Zero fighter used in WWII.

The Reuters report about the new Lockheed Martin proposal is set alongside the existing Japanese Mitsubishi X-2 Shinshin design originally designated the ATD-X for “Advanced Technology Demonstrator – X”. This aircraft bears a strong resemblance to the Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor, using the same basic overall configuration. The ATD-X/X-2 Shinshin is a two-seat experimental aircraft whereas the F-22 and F-35 are only single seat aircraft. Only one X-2 Shinshin has been produced by Japan as a technology testbed. It first flew on April 22, 2016.

The reports of the new upcoming proposal from Lockheed Martin could suggest that Japan is considering abandoning its own indigenous fifth generation air superiority development program in favor of a design from another country. One stipulation reported by the source who spoke to Reuters was that any new proposed aircraft from outside Japan must have Japanese engines, radar and other components. This suggests that an additional, new vendor like Lockheed Martin may be primarily an airframe supplier.

The Reuters report did quote the Japanese Ministry of Defense as saying, “We are considering domestic development, joint development and the possibility of improving existing aircraft performance, but we have not yet come to any decision.”

There are a number of motives for Japan to consider a ground-up aircraft development for its own Gen 5+ aircraft. Perhaps the most compelling reason to consider a new direction are the lessons learned from the massive development processes for both the U.S. F-22 Raptor and the F-35 Lighting II Joint Strike Fighter.

Both the F-22 and F-35 programs were expensive and groundbreaking in terms of leading the Gen 5 integration of combat aircraft into an air force. The attendant costs of those programs can be amortized and benefitted from in new development aircraft. The implication is they could be both better and cheaper.

Another reason for the shift in interest to a new Gen5+ direction for Japan’s next air superiority fighter is China. A March 15, 2018 article by Kyle Mizokami in Popular Mechanics quoted Chinese aircraft developer Yang Wei, deputy director of advanced of science and technology at Aviation Industry Corp of China and member of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, as saying, “We are not complacent about what we have achieved. We will develop the J-20 into a large family and keep strengthening its information-processing and intelligent capacities. At the same time, we will think about our next-generation combat plane to meet the nation’s future requirements.”

China has also been active in expanding its export market for tactical aircraft, although advanced aircraft like the J-20s are likely to remain exclusively Chinese. Japan may look to co-develop a new aircraft that could possibly have limited export appeal in the region, provided the buy-in were lower than F-35.

Japan wants Lockheed Martin to propose a new stealth air superiority fighter. (Photo: Tom Demerly/TheAviationist.com)

The costs of re-opening the F-22 production line, or even some version of it, have been generally regarded as prohibitive. However, Tyler Rogoway at The War Zone has long been advocating a sale of Raptors to Japan. In the 2016 story “Just Allow The F-22 To Be Exported To Japan Already“. Here’s a short excerpt from Tyler’s latest article on this subject (but I strongly recommend reading the whole story):

“Although Japan has put forward notional Raptor-like designs, what they could also be talking about here is merging the higher kinematic performance and low-observability of the F-22 with the F-35’s smarter attributes—including updated avionics, mission computers, and sensors—as well as new lower-maintenance skin coatings.

[…]

That cost [to put an updated F-22 back into production] may be too high for the USAF to stomach, but for Japan, it’s highly unlikely they will be able to field something superior to an updated F-22 for anywhere near less. It’s also likely that once the U.S.-specific politics of putting the Raptor back into production are removed from the equation, the cost of doing so would drop.

But if Japan is willing to buy an updated Raptor instead of developing a near identical but still unique design, clearly doing so would present a mutually beneficial opportunity. If the U.S. would become a minority stakeholder in an F-22 production line restart of sorts, with the intent on buying a number of airframes to bolster the USAF’s undersized and cherished F-22 fleet, then the opportunity could work out for both parties.

[…]

We will watch how this story develops closely, but if the Pentagon was smart, they would embrace an upgraded F-22 restart with Japan, and if Tokyo is willing to foot the majority of the bill for doing so, the USAF would be nuts not to take advantage of it. “

Indeed, this cost-sharing strategy between the U.S. and Japan would be a significant win-win, especially with the U.S. need for more F-22s. Let’s see what happens.

Top image: A wind tunnel model of Japan’s indigenous gen 5 stealth air superiority fighter. (Photo: Tom Demerly/TheAviationist.com)

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.”