ASDF

The Mystery of Japan’s KC-130 Buy

JSW pal Mike Yeo posted last week at his blog, The Base Leg, about a strange Japan Self Defense Forces purchase. Japan is purchasing 6 ex-US Marine Corps KC-130R transport/refueling aircraft. The U.S. Defense Security Cooperation Agency says in a statement: The Government of Japan has requested a possible sale to provide 6 KC-130R and 30...

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Mainichi: Japan tells U.S. it may halt F-35 purchase if prices rise

From Mainichi Daily News yesterday:

Japan tells U.S. it may halt F-35 purchase if prices rise

[...] In a letter dated Feb. 13, the ministry expressed its concern to the Pentagon over a rise in the price tag of the F-35, which is being developed by an international consortium led by U.S. aircraft maker Lockheed Martin Corp., the sources said.

The ministry also requested a review of the procurement system under a foreign military sales arrangement that allows the United States to change prices at its discretion, the sources said.

[...]

The letter was sent by Hideshi Tokuchi, chief of the ministry’s bureau of finance and equipment, and addressed to Frank Kendall, acting under secretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics.

Tokuchi said in the letter that the possibility of canceling the F-35 procurement in the event its price rises cannot be denied. If the price does go up and the matter is deliberated in parliament, it would “invite severe criticism” and “jeopardize” the F-35 procurement plan, he said. [...]

Read more at the Mainichi Daily News site

It will be a great shame if Japan cancels its orders of the F-35 due to a price range, not least because the ASDF could really do with being shot of the F-X program so that it can look ahead to the successor to the F-15Js which seem to be slowly deteriorating.

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Two Fuels Tanks Drop Off F-2 Fighter

ASDF F-2 Fighter with three fuel tanks - one mounted on each wing, and one attached to the fuselage

ASDF F-2 Fighter with three fuel tanks - one mounted on each wing, and one attached to the fuselage (Source: Mariana)

While accidents involving parts falling off the F-15 have proven quite common recently, it is the F-2 that is making headlines with this latest incident near Guam.

According to NHK, who have a video report accompanying their article, on Feb. 16th, while conducting joint training with US forces (presumably Exercise COPE NORTH) over the Pacific, two fuel tanks fell from an ASDF F-2 fighter. According to the ASDF, the tanks were both seen falling into the sea and there are no reports of any damage as a result of the accident.

The tanks are 6 meters long with a diameter of 80 cm and a weight of 170 kg a piece when empty.

The ASDF is currently investigating the incident and searching for the tanks, so if you spot two floating torpedo-shaped objects in the Pacific near Guam this week, be sure to contact someone at Andersen Air Force Base where the ASDF are housed during COPE NORTH.

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Russian Flying Museum Visits Japan

  According to RIA Novrosti, five Russian military aircraft flew near Japan yesterday, causing Japanese air defenses to scramble. According to the ministry, a total of five Russian planes, including two Tu-95 Bear strategic bombers, two Su-24 Fencer reconnaissance planes and an A-50 Mainstay airborne early warning and control aircraft skirted Japanese territory on Wednesday....

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News Flash: Tanaka Replaces Private Secretary, F15 Parts Lost 115 Times Since 2007, Shiga Requests SDF Snow Aid

There are a series of very important small pieces of news in the press today:

Defense Minister Tanaka Replaces Private Secretary

After several gaffes by the new defense minister, see Shisaku for an excellent list, Naoki Tanaka has replaced his private secretary and reinstated former Defense Minister Kitazawa’s secretary in hopes of releasing some of the incredible pressure he is under at the Diet.

An experienced defense policy professional, Manabu Mannami stepped down today after two years as private secretary, and Takahiro Yoshida returns to Ichigaya from the Ministry’s Defense Planning Bureau. Tanaka blames Mannami’s ineptitude for his poor Diet performance, and stated that he wanted to be prepared to deal with the current Budgetary Committee deliberations.  The Asahi states that officials at the ministry believe the change came at his wife’s requestMakiko Tanaka was Koizumi’s Foreign Minister and is a powerful Ozawa supporter.

 

F15 Parts Lost on 115 Occasions Since 2007

The Asahi reports that since 2007, there have been 115 incidents of parts falling from ASDF F15s mid-flight – of which only nine were reported to the local government, and only six were officially announced to the press. The ASDF says that small parts frequently drop off with little chance of damage, but local authorities complain that this information should be passed on regardless.

The study, made by the ASDF Staff Office, covers incidents spanning from April 2007 to December 2011. Most of the incidents involve bolts or screws dropping from the plane. By base, the figures are as follows:

  • Hyakuri (Ibaraki): 29 incidents
  • Nyutabara (Miyazaki): 22 incidents
  • Tsuiki (Fukuoka): 20 incidents
  • Komatsu (Ishikawa): 16 incidents
  • Chitose (Hokkaido): 14 incidents
  • Naha (Okinawa): 10 incidents
  • Gifu (Gifu): 2 incidents

 

SDF Deployed to Handle Shiga Snow

For the first time in 31 years, the SDF were requested to aid Shiga Prefecture with the record snowfall. The SDF were requested by Shiga and Kyoto Prefecutures following a record 87 centimeters of snow (as recorded in Maizuru, Kyoto). The snow has left 21 households and 56 people isolated in the town of Makino in Takashima, Shiga.

The SDF can be called into action by local authorities to deal with disaster situations, and they are frequently requested for help against heavy snow. For information on the involvement of the SDF in local snow operations, see my post from last year.

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Factlet #2: Until 2011, Japan had domestically produced fighters for 55 continuous years

This week’s factlet will come as no surprise to regular readers: until the last F2 fighter rolled off Mitsubishi Heavy Industries’ production line last December, Japan had been producing fighters domestically for 55 years without interruption.

Mitsubishi has produced all of Japan’s domestically-built fighters in continuous production since the first construction began on the F86 Sabre under license in 1956. The break in production is a terrifying prospect for Mitsubishi and IHI (jet engine manufacturer), who fear a loss of skills and construction/development capability. Japan maintains these skills through research platforms such the ATD-X ‘Shinshin’, as well as through securing some measure of assembly and production through the F35 deal with Lockheed Martin.

In January 2010, Nikkei Business wrote a special feature on Japan’s defense aircraft entitled “Last Chance”. That article featured a chart depicting the domestically-developed fighter program, translated and updated below. Note that the F1 is the only fighter on the list that was domestically developed and produced. All the other fighters were produced under license from American companies.Whether this current gap bodes well for the FXX program (seeking the successor to the F15J) or not remains to be seen.

Click the image below for the full-sized chart:

Timeline of domestic fighter production in Japan

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Japanese Air Force One/Two

Japanese Air Force One/Two

One of the two dedicated government aircraft taking off from Haneda

One of the two dedicated government aircraft taking off from Haneda (Source: Anon/2ch)

The ASDF's seal adorned the inside of the 747's door

The ASDF's seal adorned the inside of the 747's door (Source: Interceptor)

On my way to Hokkaido for the annual New Year family festivities, I happened to spot one of Japan’s dedicated government aircraft, better described (perhaps) by their callsigns, Japanese Air Force One/Two, or their colloquial name, the “Flying Kantei”. I presume it was Prime Minister Noda heading to India (as I spotted the jet on TV later that day), but it was a nice surprise for the usual drudge of flying through Haneda.

The jets, two Boeing 747-400s (registered as JA8091/JA8092), are operated by the 701st Squadron of the Air Self-Defense Force’s Special Airlift Group, based out of Chitose, Hokkaido. Interestingly, the unit relies on the civilian ground support of Japan Airlines. At the rear of the craft, it has ASDF signage, and there is a huge crest of the ASDF on the back of the door.

Read more about the aircraft over at Wikipedia.

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Is F-35 the Right Choice for Japan?

Is F-35 the Right Choice for Japan?

Examining some of the perspectives that grew out of international media coverage of Japan's decision to purchase the F-35 as a replacement to its aging fleet of F-4 Phantoms.

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F-35 Officially Selected as F-X Fighter

F-35 Officially Selected as F-X Fighter

It comes as no surprise, but the F-35 will be Japan's next-generation fighter, beating out the F/A-18 Super Hornet and the Eurofighter Typhoon in a contentious decision that seems to favor the technology over time constraints.

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F-15 Goes Off-Road in Okinawa As News of Kim Jong-il's Death Breaks

F-15 Goes Off-Road in Okinawa As News of Kim Jong-il's Death Breaks

As the world hears of the death of Kim Jong-il, the ASDF scrambles an F-15 from Naha Air Base which subsequently rides off the runway. The timing raises suspicion, but the real news is in the disruption it caused to the civilian airport it shares a runway with.

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Official F-35 Announcement Delayed?

Following the news earlier in the week that the F-X program was all but decided in favor of the F-35, defense watchers have been waiting for the official announcement due tomorrow, Friday 16th December. According to the Shingetsu News Agency (@ShingetsuNews), this announcement has been postponed until next week pending other government business.

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F-X Selection Heading Towards F-35

F-X Selection Heading Towards F-35

Both Yomiuri and Kyodo are suggesting that the F-X selection has been whittled down to the F-35 ahead of an official announcement.

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