Tag Archives: Japan Self-Defense Forces

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.

Japan’s X-2 “Shinshin” indigenous stealth jet makes first flight

The first Japanese stealth jet made its maiden flight.

The first prototype of  the indigenous stealth war plane that Japan Air Self-Defense Force will operate in the air defense role, replacing the ageing Mitsubishi F-2, made its first flight on Apr. 22 from Nagoya Aerospace Systems Works airport, part of Mitsubishi Heavy Industries facilities.

Previously designated Advanced Technology Demonstrator-X (ATD-X), the X-2, serialled 51-0001, is developed by the Japanese Ministry of Defense Technical Research and Development Institute (TRDI), the agency that has been working on the “Shinshin” (“spirit of the heart,” an early codename within the Japan Self Defense Force) for research purposes for more than a decade.

For the moment, it is painted in the red and white colors of Japan (to be probably replaced by a far more advanced grey RAM – radar absorbing material – coating), features canted vertical tails (with a steeper angle than the F-15 Silent Eagle), a bubble canopy that is meant to provide the pilot with a good frontal visibility, and twin-engine design with the thrust vectoring paddles on the exhausts (reminding what seen on the NASA X-31 and F-18 HARV) to increase the aircraft maneuverability (do you remember the F-22 Raptor?).

Image credit: Japan MoD


Chinese fighters tail U.S. aircraft in disputed airspace

The Want China Times has quoted the Tokyo’s Sankei Shimbun newspaper as saying that Chinese J-7 and J-10 fighters tailed two US aircraft as they reached the airspace close to the border between China and Japan.

The two U.S. aircraft allegedly shadowed by the People’s Loberation Army Air Force were a U.S. Navy P-3C from Misawa and a U.S. Air Force C-130 from Yokota airbase.  According to the Japanese media outlets, the Chinese fighter jets were scrambled to intercept them.


Image credit: Wiki/Retxham

This incident took place on January 10, the same day when a  Japanese reconnaissance aircraft attached to Japan’s Maritime Self-defence Force were dispatched to monitor Chinese aircraft movements near to the disputed Diaoyutai islands (Senkaku in Japan).

The following day Japanese F-15J Eagle interceptors tailed two Chinese J-10s that were launched to observe Japanese aircraft movements close to the border.

Even if it would appear that both sides are only conducting routine patrols in the area, there is a concrete risk that such close encounters turn into something more serious, escalating tensions into a conflict.

On April 1, 2001, a U.S. Navy EP-3E SIGINT plane was intercepted by a PLA Navy J-8 of the island of Hainan. The two planes went a bit too close each other and collided mid-air.

The collision, caused the death of the Chinese fighter pilot, whereas the American spyplane was forced to perform an emergency landing on Hainan.

The 24 crew members were detained and interrogated by the Chinese authorities until being released on April 21, 2001.

Written with Richard Clements

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[Simulation] Here's what North Korea's missile launch might look like

Based on publicly available stuff, Analytical Graphics has produced a computer simulation showing North Korean Unha-3 long-range rocket’s possible path, tracking assets and landing zone.

As highlighted by North Korea Tech website:

The simulation lacks of the most recent theories on the precise launch path, such as a slight dog-leg turn in the trajectory of the satellite when the third stage separates, but that’s not too important.

Take a look and you’ll have a good feel for the path of the rocket and how the first and second stages will drop into the ocean.

As already explained, the rocket will be tracked by Japanese Aegis destroyers dispatched under the air cover provided by Japanese F-15J, that will have to take care of Russian and Chinese spyplanes.

Japan worried about Russian and Chinese intelligence-gathering planes during North Korean missile launch

More than the anticipated North Korea’s missile route over East China Sea, what seems to worry a lot the Japan Defense Ministry is the possibility that its ships fitted Long Range Surveillance and Tracking (LRST) systems, deployed to monitor the launch, could be approached by Russian or Chinese intelligence-gathering aircraft.

According to the Daily Yomiuri online, the ministry will use its Maritime Self-Defense Force destroyers, equipped with Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense System, to track the missile as it will skirt the Japanese islands of Miyakojima, Ishigakijima and Okinawa (where a large U.S. airbase, Kadena, is located).

Two vessels will be deployed in the East China Sea, while another one will cruise in the Sea of Japan.

Since these Japanese vessels, with Ballistic Missile Defense capabilities similar to those of the U.S. Navy Ticonderoga class cruisers and Arleigh Burke class destroyers equipped with LRST systems, will have their radar sensors pointed towards the missile, they could remain partially defenseless, with their crews concentrating on missile’s detection and tracking.

The Japanese MoD fears that Russia and China’s spyplane could exploit the opportunity to come close to the JMSDF ships, to try to gather some interesting data about the way these vessels are equipped or operate.

For this reason F-15J fighters will provide cover to the Aegis destroyers, patrolling the nearby airspace and intercept any enemy plane with suspect behaviour.

The F-15Js will be deployed under a provision prescribed in the Self-Defense Forces Law’s Article 95, that stipulates that the SDF can use weapons, aircraft and other equipment to defend their planes, ships and other equipment.

As highlighted by the Daily Yomiuri article this will be the first application of the provision.

Surely Naha, located on the Okinawa island, will be the main operating base of the F-15. However such operation, involving two planes, spares, aerial refuelers and various support assets, will probably involve other airbases whose QRA (Quick Reaction Alert) cells could be kept in a heighned readiness status, such as Nyutabaru, Tsuiki and Chitose, in the north of the country.

The Daily Yomiuri article suggests that spyplanes approaching within about 36 km of a Japanese vessel will be issued a warning to prevent futher approach even if the Ministry of Defense could have issued new, specific Rules Of Engagement, allowing the F-15Js to fire warning shots if aircraft ignore the warnings.

To be honest I think that in most cases warning shorts are considered useless as nobody would see them, but I might be wrong. For sure intercept procedures foresee that the intercepted plane complies with the fighter instructions. If it doesn’t it will be shot down.

Even if Russian strategic bombers, reconnaissance planes and AWACS skirt Japanese islands (and get photographed) during long range patrol flights quite often, such special measures to protect the Aegis ships seems a bit exagerated.

Two Russian Il-38 reconnaissance planes have been intercepted in the last days. Many spyplanes (including U.S. one) will be probably wandering in international airspace in the next 24 – 48 hours, but their main interest will be the North Korean missile.

Unless the Japanese destroyers have been equipped with new equipment that has to be kept secret. Otherwise, I would concentrate my force in detecting and tracking the missile and shoot it down if it gets too close.

52-8850 a Japanese built F-15J of 304 Hikotai

Image credit: Jerry Gunner/Flickr