The Sankei Shimbun reports that the 18 F-2s damaged during the March 11th tsunami at Matsushima Sub-Base are undergoing repairs. The aircraft, which were parked on the tarmac at Matsushima, were unable to be evacuated in time to escape the waves. All were inundated with seawater and at least one collided with the control tower building. 300 off-duty base personnel were also missing in the wake of the tsunami.
The aircraft pictured appears to be in reasonably good shape. It appears to be in the process of being dismantled: note the screws holding the skin paneling have been loosened where the wing meets the body.
It’s difficult to imagine these aircraft as being capable of returning to service. Having been submerged in corrosive seawater can’t be good for the electronics, wiring, and hydraulics. Still, the Ministry of Defense appears at least willing to give it a go.
Here’s a very rough translation of the bulk of the article, courtesy James Simpson:
In the Great East Japan Earthquake, ASDF Matsushima Sub-base suffered serious damage. On the 17th April, repair efforts started on 18 flooded F2 trainer fighters. To avoid having to scrap the aircraft, the Ministry of Defense judged it possible to restore the aircraft to working condition. While working hard to repair the runway to allow aircraft to take off and land in order to make use of the base’s prime location for transporting and distributing supplies to the disaster-affected regions, the base is not yet fully operational. Wishing to restore the base, once called the ‘Northern Sky Fortress’, 1000 ASDF members from across Japan have volunteered to work at the base.
Essential Anti-Invasion Role
At 10:30 a.m., 17th April, in a hanger at the base, around 10 ASDF members gathered around an F2 fighter. One climbed up onto the wing and began tending to the much loved aircraft, cleaning it with a cloth. The restoration operation had quietly begun.
The base had received new F2 pilots for training. The 10-month training program had not yet finished when the tsunami hit. The F2s lined up on the runway one-by-one were washed away by the dark waters of the tsunami. One ASDF member said, “The fuselages spun in the rolling current.”
Around 40 of the new pilots were moved to Misawa Air Base from the next day (12th). “Let’s get some fully-qualified instructors here,” a veteran member let out with a smile.
The F2 is particularly skilled in Air-to-Ground/Air-to-Sea strike roles. In the hypothetical case of military conflict with China, the F2 would be essential to protect Japan’s outlying islands from invasion.
After being hit by the tsunami and taking crippling damage from the water, the Ministry of Defense has deemed it possible to restore the aircraft, while beginning to calculate the cost of such restoration efforts.
As the ASDF is to receive its final F2 fighter this autumn, there is expected to be a shortage in the supply of available parts. Base commander Lt. Gen. Sugiyama Masaki stressed, “The F2 training facilities and base functions will be completely restored.”
ASDF leaders also pointed out, “‘Decentralization on the ground, concentration in the air’ is a key air strategy. In the event of an emergency, Matsushima Sub Base sits at an important location.” While the F2 aircraft at Matsushima are being used for training, in a emergency, the aircraft will be put into service in support of ongoing operations.
A contributor and editor at the blog War Is Boring, Kyle Mizokami started Japan Security Watch in 2010 to further understand Japan's defenses and security policy.
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