The December air show, traditional for the Hyakuri airbase, was dedicated to farewell ceremony with the legendary F-4 Phantom II aircraft.
F-2 fighters (Japanese modification F-16) and F-15, transport Kawasaki C-2, patrol R-1 and the Blue Impulse aerobatics team flew to the airbase for the show. But the main focus was set to ordinary Phantoms which combat pilots flew.
For the past two years the air forces of the Japanese self-defense forces have gradually withdrawn from the fleet the last aircraft of the Cold War era.
The Japanese are distinguished by a great love for the special colorful livery of their aircraft, and especially for air shows, they painted several planes with special liveries. And one of the aircraft was painted in a special livery dedicated to the emblem of the 301 squadron – a frog in a scarf with stars (the prototype of which was the Japanese toad, which lives on Mount Tsukuba, near the air base).
Recent Japanese Phantoms are mainly concentrated at the Hayakuri airbase, which is a two-hour race north of Tokyo, in Ibaraki Prefecture. 301 tactical fighter squadrons and 501 tactical reconnaissance squadrons are based here. Hayakuri – the home of the latest reconnaissance RF-4 – Phantoms not only of the Japanese Air Force, but also the latest reconnaissance Phantoms in the world.
The 501st squadron will say goodbye to the last Phantom in March 2020, and the 301st squadron should switch to F-35A by the end of the year.
The air show at Hyakuri airbase will be the last (at least for now – there will be no air show in 2020), 501 squadron will transfer to F-35, and 301st will be relocated to Misawa airbase.
The event had a number of distinctive features:
• an airshow was held for 2 days, on one of which the passage was open only to local residents who sent applications for visits;
• the base opened its gates very early: at 6:30 we were already inside. Moreover, the number of people who were already at the airport was astounding;
• the entire airshow was arranged so that the best shots were obtained from the inside, not from outside of the base;
• in Japan, either there are no European standards, or there are exceptions, but the aerobatics took place directly above the audience;
The legendary Phantoms – McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II, are still in service with some countries, including Iran, Turkey, Greece, Korea and, of course, Japan.