Two F-15Js in flight; these aircraft equip seven JASDF fighter squadrons
Two F-15Js in flight; these aircraft equip seven JASDF fighter squadrons

Fighter units of the Japan Air Self-Defense Force are squadrons of fighter aircraft dedicated to the defense of Japan. As Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution states that the country renounces war, JASDF fighter squadrons have never been deployed in combat overseas.

One of the main activities of JASDF fighter squadrons is providing Quick Reaction Alert intercepts to Chinese and Russian aircraft nearing or violating Japanese airspace. In 2016 Japan Air Self-Defense Force aircraft launched 851 times to intercept Chinese aircraft and 301 times in response to Russian aircraft.[1]

It has never been required to engage in combat to protect Japan. The closest the JASDF has ever come to combat was in 1987 when it fired warning shots near a Soviet Tu-16 that was violating Japanese airspace.[2][3][4]

As of 2019 there are 12 JASDF fighter squadrons in existence. In December 2013 it was announced that the number would be increased to 13.[5]

Background

F-4EJ Kai in flight; two JASDF squadrons still fly them
F-4EJ Kai in flight; two JASDF squadrons still fly them

During the Imperial period until 1945 the Imperial Japanese Army and Imperial Japanese Navy had operated their own air services, the Imperial Japanese Navy Air Service and the Imperial Japanese Army Air Service. There was no independent Imperial Japanese Air Force.[6] During the post-war occupation from 1945–1952 there was no Japanese military, with security for the country being provided by the occupation forces. Even afterwards, US forces based in the country continued to provide security for Japan.[7]

Establishment of the SDF

An F-2 fighter taking off; three squadrons deploy them
An F-2 fighter taking off; three squadrons deploy them

In 1954 the Self-Defense Forces law was passed by Japan's National Diet[8] and on July 1, 1954 the Japan Air Self-Defense Force was founded.[9] The first JASDF fighter squadron, (the 1st Squadron) was founded at Hamamatsu Air Base in Shizuoka Prefecture on January 10, 1956 with F-86F Sabre aircraft.[10]

Aircraft used

F-35A aircraft at Misawa Air Base
F-35A aircraft at Misawa Air Base

During the Imperial era the Japanese air services largely used Japanese fighter aircraft made by companies such as Kawasaki Aerospace Company, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and Nakajima Aircraft Company. After the war surviving Japanese aircraft were mostly scrapped and aviation manufacturing capability was destroyed. When the new SDF's air capacity was initially established it was with surplus American aircraft left over from World War II.

When the JASDF's fighter capacity was to be re-established Japan had no capacity to design its own fighters, so US F-86F aircraft were purchased and Mitsubishi license-built 300 of them, along with the F-86D model.[11] In the postwar era Mitsubishi has been the main corporation responsible for Japan's fighters. In addition to the F-86s it also license-built F-104J/DJ, F-4EJ and F-15J/DJ aircraft. In addition it has designed and built the Mitsubishi F-1 and Mitsubishi F-2 aircraft.

The JASDF was interested in obtaining the twin-engine Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor to replace the F-4 and F-15, but when this was not possible it settled on the F-35.[12][13] Mitsubishi is currently involved in assembling the F-35A.[14]

In addition to their fighters, JASDF squadrons also operate up to six trainer aircraft. Originally these were Lockheed T-33As, but from 1988 they were replaced by the Kawasaki T-4.

Currently Mitsubishi is also working on the X-2 Shinshin as what many consider to be Japan's first stealth fighter.[15][16]

Squadron numbering

From the 1950s to the 1970s the JASDF's fighter squadron numbering system was based on the type of aircraft it was equipped with. Squadrons 1–11 were F-86F squadrons, 100 numbers were F-86D, 200 numbers operated the F-104J/DJ, and 300 numbered squadrons the F-4EJ. For fighter aircraft after the F-4 (the F-1, F-15J/DJ and F-2A/B) new squadron number systems were not introduced.

As the F-1 and F-2 were designated as fighters with a ground support role they were allocated to single-digit squadrons that formerly operated F-86F aircraft. The F-86Fs had also been designated as ground support fighters.

Current status

Mitsubishi X-2 Shinshin on its first flight on April 22, 2016
Mitsubishi X-2 Shinshin on its first flight on April 22, 2016

As of 2019 the Japan Air Self-Defense Force has 12 fighter squadrons. Seven of these fly the Mitsubishi F-15J, three fly the Mitsubishi F-2, and two still fly the McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II.

In 2019 the Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning II began to enter service with JASDF fighter squadrons to replace the F-4s, beginning with 302nd Tactical Fighter Squadron.[17]

The Mitsubishi X-2 Shinshin technology demonstrator was developed,[18] and in the future Japan may purchase a new F-22/F-35 hybrid aircraft.[19]

Squadrons

Current

Northern Air Defense Force[20]

Central Air Defense Force[23]

Southwestern Air Defense Force[28]

Disbanded

Aircraft operated

F-15J at Chitose Air Base (2010)

References

  1. ^ Japan Air Self-Defense Force: Chinese Intercepts Down 50, Russia Up 60 Percent July 17, 2017 The Diplomat Retrieved September 20, 2017
  2. ^ Japanese Jet Warns Soviet Plane December 10, 1987 New York Times Retrieved October 2, 2017
  3. ^ Japan Given Apology by Soviet December 11, 1987 New York Times Retrieved October 2, 2017
  4. ^ Soviet Union apologizes to Japan over airspace violation December 16, 1987 United Press International Retrieved October 2, 2017
  5. ^ Thompson, Paul. "JASDF Order of Battle (July 1, 2017)". J-HangarSpace. Retrieved October 22, 2017.
  6. ^ Imperial Japanese Navy Air Force globalsecurity.org Retrieved August 24, 2017
  7. ^ Sugita, Yoneyuki Pitfall of Panacea: The Irony of US Power in Occupied Japan 1945–1952 page 78 Published 2003, Retrieved August 24, 2017
  8. ^ Law Library of Congress – Japan – Article 9 of the constitution Retrieved August 23, 2017
  9. ^ What is JASDF Japanese Ministry of Defense Retrieved August 23, 2017
  10. ^ Thompson, Paul JASDF Squadron Histories – 1st Squadron J-HangarSpace Retrieved August 24, 2017
  11. ^ Drown, Thomas A. American-Japanese Security Agreements, Past and Present, page 116 Retrieved September 22, 2017
  12. ^ "Japan's Next F-X Fighters: F-35 Wins Round 1". defenseindustrydaily.com. September 18, 2017. Retrieved October 25, 2017.
  13. ^ Simpson, James (July 11, 2016). "America's F-22 Raptor: The fighter jet Japan desperately wants (but can't have)". atimes.com. Retrieved October 25, 2017.
  14. ^ Mitsubishi Heavy unveils first F-35 stealth fighter assembled in Japan June 5, 2017 Japan Times Retrieved August 24, 2017
  15. ^ Mie, Ayako Japan becomes fourth nation to test-fly homegrown stealth jet April 22, 2016 Japan Times Retrieved August 24, 2017
  16. ^ Mie, Ayako Japan backs homegrown stealth jet in aerospace industry revival May 21, 2016 Japan Times Retrieved August 24, 2017
  17. ^ 三沢基地F-35A飛行隊は「第302飛行隊」に 百里F-4EJ改を整理 August 31, 2017 fly team.jp Retrieved September 13, 2017 (in Japanese)
  18. ^ Rogoway, Tyler Everything We Know About The X-2, The Future Of Japanese Stealth Fighter Design January 28, 2016 Foxtrotalpha Retrieved September 21, 2017
  19. ^ F-35 Brains in an F-22 Body: Thinking Through Japan's Next-Generation Fighter Options May 1, 2018 Retrieved August 31, 2018
  20. ^ 北部航空方面隊 Japanese Ministry of Defense Retrieved August 23, 2017 (in Japanese)
  21. ^ 千歳基地 Japanese Ministry of Defense Retrieved August 26, 2017 (in Japanese)
  22. ^ 三沢基地 Japanese Ministry of Defense Retrieved August 26, 2017 (in Japanese)
  23. ^ 中部航空方面隊 Japanese Ministry of Defense Retrieved August 23, 2017 (in Japanese)
  24. ^ 小松基地 Japanese Ministry of Defense Retrieved August 26, 2017 (in Japanese)
  25. ^ Hyakuri Air Base – About Force Japanese Ministry of Defense Retrieved August 26, 2017 (in Japanese)
  26. ^ 新田原基地 Archived 2017-08-26 at the Wayback Machine Japanese Ministry of Defense Retrieved August 26, 2017 (in Japanese)
  27. ^ 航空自衛隊築城基地 Japanese Ministry of Defense Retrieved August 26, 2017 (in Japanese)
  28. ^ 南西航空方面隊|防衛省 [JASDF] 航空自衛隊 Japanese Ministry of Defense Retrieved August 23, 2017 (in Japanese)
  29. ^ 第9航空団 Archived 2016-04-13 at the Wayback Machine Japanese Ministry of Defense Retrieved August 26, 2017 (in Japanese)