Yokota Air Base
横田飛行場
Yokota Hikōjō
Fussa, Tokyo in Japan
US Air Force C-130 Hercules of the 36th Airlift Squadron parked on the Yokota flight-line during 2013.
US Air Force C-130 Hercules of the 36th Airlift Squadron parked on the Yokota flight-line during 2013. The aircraft feature the 'YJ' Yokota tail code.
Pacific Air Forces.png
Yokota AB is located in Tokyo
Yokota AB
Yokota AB
Yokota AB is located in Japan
Yokota AB
Yokota AB
Coordinates35°44′55″N 139°20′55″E / 35.74861°N 139.34861°E / 35.74861; 139.34861Coordinates: 35°44′55″N 139°20′55″E / 35.74861°N 139.34861°E / 35.74861; 139.34861
TypeUS Air Force Base
Site information
OwnerVarious (leased by Government of Japan and made available to the US)
OperatorUS Air Force
Controlled byPacific Air Forces (PACAF)
ConditionOperational
Websitewww.yokota.af.mil Edit this at Wikidata
Site history
Built1940 (1940) (as Tama Airfield)
In use1940 – present
Garrison information
Current
commander
Col. Andrew Campbell[1]
Garrison374th Airlift Wing (Host)
Airfield information
IdentifiersIATA: OKO, ICAO: RJTY, WMO: 476420
Elevation140.8 metres (462 ft) AMSL
Runways
Direction Length and surface
18/36 3,353 metres (11,001 ft) Concrete
Source: Japanese AIP at AIS Japan[2]

Yokota Air Base (横田飛行場, Yokota Hikōjō), (IATA: OKO, ICAO: RJTY) is a Japan Air Self-Defense Force (JASDF) and United States Air Force (USAF) base in the city of Fussa, a city in the Tama Area, or Western Tokyo.

The base houses 14,000 personnel. It occupies a total area of 7.07 km2 (2.73 sq mi) and has a 3,353 m × 61 m (11,001 ft × 200 ft) runway.

It features the JASDF Air Defense Command Headquarters (ADC headquarters) since 26 March 2012. The headquarters of United States Forces Japan is also located there. Other base facilities are the broadcast center for the American Forces Network Tokyo radio service and a detachment of Pacific Air Forces' Band of the Pacific.

History

Tama Airfield

The facility which houses Yokota Air Base was originally constructed by the Imperial Japanese Army (IJA) in 1940 as Tama Airfield, and used as a flight test center. During World War II Yokota became the center of Japanese Army Air Forces flight test activities and the base was the site of the first meeting between Japanese and Italian wartime allies.

Tama was first identified by United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) in November 1944 by a 3d Reconnaissance Squadron F-13 Superfortress photo-reconnaissance aircraft, flying from Tinian in the Mariana Islands. It was identified as being associated with the aircraft manufacturing plant belonging to Nakajima Aircraft Company in the nearby town (now city) of Musashino. Along with Tachikawa Air Base to the east and the factory of Showa Aircraft Industry to the south, it was compared to the aircraft development complex of the USAAF Wright-Patterson Field in Ohio. According to the USAAF intelligence at the time, the two bases conducted all IJA flight testing. In the spring of 1945, XXI Bomber Command attacked the base eight times along with the aircraft manufacturing plant, but each time heavy clouds forced the bombers to attack secondary targets. The Nakajima plant was finally attacked in April 1945, but the Tama airfield never was bombed.

Postwar years

With the Surrender of Japan on 2 September 1945, a detachment of the United States Army 1st Cavalry Division arrived at the base on 4 September. The airfield's buildings were largely intact, and some 280 of the IJA's most modern aircraft were discovered in hangars.

The 1st Cavalry named the facility Fussa Army Airfield, then at the end of September renamed it Yokota Army Airfield after a nearby village (now incorporated in Musashimurayama) the name of which appeared on a 1944 US map.

The name was to have been changed to Wilkins Army Air Base (WAAB) after Medal of Honor recipient Raymond "Ray" Wilkins, but orders for this never arrived and it remained under the name Yokota Army Airfield until the USAAF became the USAF in 1947, at which point it became Yokota Air Base.[3] Some metal manhole covers stamped "WAAB" remain in use around the base as of 2017.

The initial USAAF use for the base was for airlift operations when the 2d Combat Cargo Group arrived with four C-47 Skytrain squadrons. When the old runway deteriorated under heavy usage, the runway was repaired and Yokota supported operations of the A-26 Invader-equipped 3d Bombardment Group by August 1946. Additional construction during the 1940s and 1950s was completed and the base reached its current size around 1960.

On the occasion of extension, the course of Hachiko Line and National Route 16 was changed, and Itsukaichi Kaidō was divided.

During the initial postwar occupation years, Yokota hosted the following known USAAF/USAF units:

These units performed photographic reconnaissance and mapping of Japan and South Korea.

Korean War

During the Korean War, Yokota was used for combat missions over North and South Korea. Known units based there were:

Cold War

With the Korean War reaching an armistice in July 1953, Yokota Air Base returned to a peacetime Cold War status. Two major wings were stationed at the base during the 1950s, the 67th Reconnaissance Wing (1956–60) flying RF-80s, RF-84s and lastly RF-101s.[4]: 106  The 35th Fighter-Interceptor Wing (1954–57) flew F-86 Sabres from the base.[4]: 106  A Tactical Air Command (TAC) air refueling unit, the 421st Air Refueling Squadron flew KB-29s, and later KB-50Js from Yokota from 1953 to 1965. All of these units were under the command of the 41st Air Division.

The 35th TFW was reassigned in 1957 and the 67th TRW in 1960. Defense budget restrictions in the late 1950s caused several PACAF wings based in Japan to be reassigned or inactivated. These tactical fighter units were replaced by the B-57 equipped 3rd Bombardment Wing where it trained in bombardment, reconnaissance and aerial refueling operations. The Air Defense Command 40th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron (December 1961 – May 1962) equipped with the F-102 Delta Dagger performing an air defense mission.

The 6102d Air Base Wing assumed host unit status for the base, being replaced by the 441st Combat Support Group in 1964.

Housing for unaccompanied personnel
Housing for unaccompanied personnel

The Vietnam War resulted in an increased combat and airlift aircraft presence at the base. Yokota was used for ferrying B-52 Stratofortresses to Southeast Asia along with being a base for US-based deployed F-105 Thunderchief 35th, 36th and 80th Tactical Fighter Squadrons. The 610th Military Airlift Support Squadron (1966–78) was created by Military Airlift Command (MAC) to service the large increase in transiting airlift. The 65th Military Airlift Support Group (1969–71) was a headquarters organization for MAC airlift support squadrons in the Pacific and Far East.

The F-105 squadrons deployed frequently to USAF-operated bases in Thailand to fly combat missions over North and South Vietnam, and to South Korea for alert missions. Initially the fighter squadrons were under the command of the 41st Air Division, but was reassigned shortly after to the 6441st Tactical Fighter Wing, activated in April 1965 to control the F-105 squadrons after their parent organization, the 8th Tactical Fighter Wing, relocated to George Air Force Base, California to become an F-4 Phantom II unit. With the reassignment of the 347th Fighter Wing to Yokota in 1968, the 347th assumed responsibility for all tactical fighters until its reassignment to Kunsan Air Base, South Korea in March 1971.[4]: 183 

In 1971, all combat squadrons were transferred to Kadena and Misawa Air Base and Yokota became a non-flying station hosted by the 475th Air Base Wing.[4]: 264  The 475th had no numbered flying squadrons, but operated a few T-39 Saberliners and UH-1 helicopters, along with supporting transient MAC cargo and passenger aircraft. Assigned flying squadrons returned to Yokota in 1975 when the 345th Tactical Airlift Squadron was assigned with its C-130Es.

Headquarters, Fifth Air Force was transferred to Yokota on 11 November 1974 from Fuchū Air Base, Japan.

Post-Cold War

In 2005, the Japanese government announced that the headquarters of the Japan Air Self-Defense Force Air Defense Command would be moved to Yokota.

The Tokyo Metropolitan Government has advocated opening Yokota to civilian flights as a method of relieving traffic at Haneda and Narita Airport. Governor Shintaro Ishihara raised the joint-use proposal during the 2003 gubernatorial election, and Governor Naoki Inose made comments in 2013 that suggested joint use as a possible solution to cope with visitor demand during the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo.[5]

In November 2009, the base was attacked by Kakurōkyō members using improvised mortar barrages.[6]

Tents used to house U.S. Pacific Command's (USPACOM) Deployable Joint Command and Control (DJC2) system during Operation Tomodachi
Tents used to house U.S. Pacific Command's (USPACOM) Deployable Joint Command and Control (DJC2) system during Operation Tomodachi

In April 2010 Colonel Frank Eppich, the USAF commander of base, banned screenings of the film The Cove at the base theater. A base spokesman said that The Cove was banned because using a base venue to display the film could be seen as an endorsement of the film. The spokesman added, "We have a lot of issues with Japan... and anything done on an American base would be seen as an approval of that event."[7]

Personnel and aircraft from the base assisted with Operation Tomodachi following and during the March 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami and Fukushima I nuclear accidents. The base also served as an important hub for airlifted assistance during the disaster recovery efforts. During the crisis, around 600 American family members voluntarily departed the base for locations outside Japan.[8]

JASDF Air Defense Command Headquarters
JASDF Air Defense Command Headquarters

On 21 March 2012 JASDF units completed moving from Fuchū Air Base (Tokyo). On 26 March, JASDF Yokota Air Base started operations.

In 2013, the air base was again attacked by Kakurokyo members by improvised mortar barrages.[9]

On 5 April 2018 five CV-22 Osprey tiltrotor aircraft deployed to the base. They had originally been scheduled to deploy to Yokota in 2020, but the deployment was brought forward. As the first permanent deployment of the aircraft outside of Okinawa, the move sparked local protests.[10][11][12][13][14] The number of aircraft will eventually reach 10.[15]

Major commands to which assigned

Role and operations

United States Air Force

A C-130H Hercules taxis to park on the east side of the flightline at Yokota Air Base, Japan, 25 March 2011.
A C-130H Hercules taxis to park on the east side of the flightline at Yokota Air Base, Japan, 25 March 2011.

The host unit at Yokota is the 374th Airlift Wing and is currently used for airlift missions throughout East Asia. The 374th includes four groups: operations, mission support, maintenance and medical. Each group manages a various number of squadrons in order to carry out the wing's mission.

It is not uncommon to see a KC-135 Stratotanker, C-5 Galaxy, KC-10 Extender, C-130, C-17, or civilian charter (Omni Air International, Air Transport International etc. mostly Boeing 757 or 767) and cargo (Atlas Air, Kalitta Air etc. mostly Boeing 747) airline aircraft on military charters on the Transient Aircraft ramp.

RQ-4B Global Hawks of Detachment 1, 319th Operations Group deploy to Yokota from Andersen AFB in Guam during the typhoon season, normally between June to December.[17]

AMC passenger terminal

The newly renovated Air Mobility Command (AMC) Passenger Terminal is on the main part of the base next to the flightline. It is a 5 to 7-minute walk from the Kanto Lodge (see below) and offers Space-Available flights to various destinations in PACAF such as Alaska, Guam, Hawaii, Korea, Okinawa, Singapore, as well as the Continental United States.

Based units

Flying and notable non-flying units based at Yokota Air Base.[18][19][20]

Units marked GSU are Geographically Separate Units, which although based at Yokota, are subordinate to a parent unit based at another location.

Lawsuits

Resistance to the air base immediately followed the end of US occupation. Gravel used in the construction of the airfields was taken from the Tama River, lowering the riverbed and affecting the traditional irrigation system (Fuchū-yōsui), which had provided water to local communities since the early Edo period. The base also caused great stress to nearby inhabitants in a number of other ways, such as fuel leaks and spills that contaminated groundwater and well water, foul odors and fires, deafening noise pollution, and repeated plane crashes. Although local leaders succeeded in bringing about the return of land that had been taken for the base in Tachikawa, at Yokota, the number of departures and landings per year reached 20,000. Pilot training that simulated landing jets on aircraft carriers was also held several times each year, often throughout the night.[21] Because such training, together with the engine testing and daily flights, created a level of noise pollution that local inhabitants found unbearable, numerous lawsuits were filed against the Japanese and U.S. governments, calling for a halt in flights and compensation for damages caused by the noise pollution.[22] At present, a small fraction of the compensation demanded for past damages appears likely to be awarded. "Yokota Airbase Pollution Lawsuit No. 9", filed on 12 December 2012 and "New Yokota Airbase Pollution Lawsuit No. 2", filed on 26 March 2013, are currently being disputed.

Base amenities

The 374th Force Support Squadron

The 374th Force Support Squadron is responsible for providing an enhanced quality of life, facilities and programs for 11,000 military, civilian and dependents as well as 150,000 transient personnel per year. The 374th Force Support Squadron provides manpower and personnel support, membership clubs, child development, youth programs, food service, lodging, sports/fitness, recreation/leisure activities, comprehensive readiness program, marketing/publicity, linen exchange, and mortuary operations for Yokota AB.[23]

Friendship Festival

Friendship Festival – Local Japanese entering a C-130
Friendship Festival – Local Japanese entering a C-130

Each year in September, Yokota Air Base opens the gates to the Japanese community for its annual Friendship Festival. For two days, local residents can learn about Yokota Air Base. Food and events are provided for all ages. Roughly 200,000 visitors show up each year, although non-Japanese visitors may be turned away from the gates for security reasons.

For those two days, visitors are able to examine many types of aircraft and even tour some of the large cargo planes from inside.

Education

The Department of Defense Education Activity operates schools at Yokota for children of personnel assigned to the base. [24]

Higher educational opportunities for those in the military and working for the Department of Defense, as well as for family members at Yokota are available through several contracted academic institutions. For example:[30]

Tama Hills Recreation Area

The Tama Hills Recreation Area comprises about one-half of the 500-acre Tama Services Division Annex, the other half being the Tama Hills Golf Course.[32][33][34]

In popular culture

The base was the setting of Almost Transparent Blue, a best-selling novel written by Ryu Murakami and published in 1976, as well as the anime Blood the Last Vampire and the short film Baby Blue from Genius Party, directed by Shinichiro Watanabe. Yokota Air Base and its surrounding area were the central location for the 2006 movie Sugar and Spice and mentioned briefly in Patlabor 2: The Movie. It is also the setting of parts of The Yokota Officers Club : A Novel by Sarah Bird. The base is also the birthplace of US Marine Captain, former UFC fighter and Fox Sports analyst Brian Stann. The base was also briefly featured in the 2016 biopic Snowden as one of Edward Snowden's workplaces.

References

Public Domain This article incorporates public domain material from the Air Force Historical Research Agency website http://www.afhra.af.mil/. Some of the text in this article was taken from pages on the Yokota Air Base website, which as a work of the U.S. Government is presumed to be a public domain resource. That information was supplemented by:

  1. ^ Ditzler, Joseph (19 November 2020). "Tokyo coronavirus cases top 500 for second straight day; Yokota records 35 active infections". Stars and Stripes. The spike in infections is Yokota’s highest one-day total thus far, exceeding the previous high mark, 14, reached Wednesday. However, base commander Col. Andrew Campbell in a minute-long video address Friday said he would impose no new restrictions beyond a handful announced Wednesday.
  2. ^ AIS Japan
  3. ^ "Yokota History Part 2: Occupation Period, 1945–51". Yokota Air Base. Retrieved 16 September 2017.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h Ravenstein, Charles A. (1984). Air Force Combat Wings, Lineage & Honors Histories 1947–1977. Office of Air Force History. p. 51. ISBN 0912799129.
  5. ^ "Tokyo governor eyes Yokota Air Base for civilian flights during 2020 Olympics". Kyodo News. 17 September 2013. Retrieved 19 December 2013.
  6. ^ Japanese police raid operational bases of anti-U.S. military group – Japan – Stripes
  7. ^ Harnell, Boyd, "Yokota base bans 'Cove' to be neutral", Japan Times, 13 April 2010, p. 1.
  8. ^ Reed, Charlie, "Military wraps up first round of departures from Japan", Stars and Stripes, 25 March 2011, retrieved 28 March 2011.
  9. ^ http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2013/11/29/national/explosions-heard-near-u-s-air-base/
  10. ^ "CV-22 Osprey set to deploy at Yokota Air Base also being used for night training in Okinawa, has a higher accident rate than the MV-22". Ryukyu Shimpo. 29 March 2018. Retrieved 18 June 2018.
  11. ^ "U.S. military announces early deployment of CV-22 Ospreys to Japan's Yokota Air Base". Japan Times. 3 April 2018. Retrieved 18 June 2018.
  12. ^ "Local residents protest Osprey deployment at US Yokota base". Mainichi Shimbun. 6 April 2018. Retrieved 18 June 2018.
  13. ^ "U.S. Air Force CV-22 Osprey aircraft to arrive at Yokota AB". United States Forces Japan. 3 April 2018. Retrieved 18 June 2018.
  14. ^ Yoshizawa, Hidemasa (5 April 2018). "5 Ospreys fly to Yokota Air Base amid protests from residents". Asahi Shimbun. Retrieved 18 June 2018.
  15. ^ Robson, Seth (3 April 2018). "Ospreys to arrive at Yokota this week, 2 years ahead of schedule". Stars and Stripes. Retrieved 18 June 2018.
  16. ^ "Yokota welcomes is newest member the C-12 Huron". Yokota AB News. 6 July 2007. Retrieved 26 July 2018.
  17. ^ Everstine, Brian W. (4 June 2020). "Guam's Global Hawks Move to Japan for Typhoon Season". Air Force Magazine. Retrieved 31 July 2020.
  18. ^ "Units". Yokota Air Base. US Air Force. Retrieved 27 January 2020.
  19. ^ Correll, Diana Stancy (1 July 2019). "Two special operations Osprey squadrons stand up at Yokota AB". Air Force Times. Retrieved 27 January 2020.
  20. ^ "FEACT Contact Information". US Coast Guard – Pacific Area. US Coast Guard. Retrieved 27 January 2020.
  21. ^ 横田基地の概要
  22. ^ "Archived copy". www.city.fussa.tokyo.jp. Archived from the original on 9 March 2012. Retrieved 15 January 2022.((cite web)): CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  23. ^ www.YokotaSupport.com
  24. ^ Department of Defense Education
  25. ^ Joan K. Mendel Elementary School
  26. ^ Yokota West Elementary School
  27. ^ Yokota Middle School
  28. ^ Yokota High School
  29. ^ "About Our School | Yokota High School".
  30. ^ University of Maryland: Asia Division
  31. ^ UMUC Asia | Quality academic programs for U.S. military communities
  32. ^ "Archived copy". yokotasupport.com. Archived from the original on 28 June 2008. Retrieved 15 January 2022.((cite web)): CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  33. ^ Tama Hills Arsenal « Punynari's Island Adventures
  34. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 15 June 2013. Retrieved 15 June 2013.((cite web)): CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)

Bibliography