According to a Kyodo Press release, an F-15 from ASDF Nyutabaru Air Base in Miyazaki Prefecture lost a 7 cm by 0.2 mm aluminum sheet from the underside of its right-wing on the morning of Nov 1st. The part weighed just 6.4 g and was luckily lost during a training flight over the sea with no reports of any injury. However, this comes just one day after the F-15s were ordered back into the skies. The ASDF jets were grounded from Oct 7th until the 31st after an F-15 from Komatsu Air Base lost an external fuel tank during training.
The number of these incidents is embarrassing for the ASDF who are still trying to find a replacement for the F-4 fighter in the F-X program, with the F-15 replace coming sometime after the current Mid-Term Defense Program (MTDP) comes to an end in 2015. While the MoD seeks to modernize the F-15, only 16 will under modernization as per the current (FY2011-2015) MTDP, down on 48 jets specified in the previous (FY2005-2010) program – although some of those were simply for radar replacements. This leaves around 200 unmodernized jets which are apparently falling to pieces. If Japan loses its F-15 fleet to further incidents like this, it will leave a serious dent in its air defense capabilities.
The solution would appear to be higher standards of maintenance, perhaps retraining ground crew is the easiest solution, but the ASDF simply does not have the money to do it. It is already saddled with the cost of repairing Matsushima Air Base and salvaging its F-2 fighter trainers on a tight budget. At any rate, the ground crew can only work with what they are given – a 30-year old fighter jet is not a great place to be starting.
A former contributor to World Intelligence (Japan Military Review), James Simpson joined Japan Security Watch in 2011, migrating with his blog Defending Japan. He has a Masters in Security Studies from Aberystwyth University and is currently living in Kawasaki, Japan.
His primary interests include the so-called 'normalization' of Japanese security (i.e. militarization), and the political impact of the abduction issue with North Korea.
James Simpson has 254 post(s) on Japan Security Watch