Korea / Japan
Korea and Japan, two colourful Asian countries, and with a huge variety of aviation subjects. With some airshows going on in a narrow timeframe a nice round-trip was worked out that should hopefully bring some images from these two Air Forces back. Time to start...
Where? Korea / Japan
When? October 2011
The Yin and Yang are represented by the red and blue taegeuk in the centre of South Korea's national flag, representing a "continuous movement within infinity, the two merging as one", at least according to Wikipedia. Or heaven and earth by the blue and red colour. To many it is of course also a sign of (mental) balance and calmness, but looking at the omni-present tensions with its neighbour North Korea the reality is different. It is thus more than obvious that the Korean military is very restricted and secretive, so more or less the only chance to see some RoKAF (Republic of Korea Air Force) aircraft is the bi-annual ADEX exposition at Seoul.
The ADEX (Aerospace and Defence Exhibition) takes place at the Sinchonri (K-16) Air Base East of Seoul and serves mainly as a showcase for the local defence industry.
The most part of the photos from the Seoul Airshow can be found HERE, this is only a short summary to show the extent and variety of aircraft seen there:
Whereas the show at Seoul offered a quite open access to RoKAF hardware, the situation in the rest of country is very different.
Mainly flying imported and locally licence-build (K)F-16s and (K)F-5s the RoKAF employs a huge variety of aircraft, many of which could be seen at the Seoul and Osan airshows. Furthermore the trusted F-4 Phantom II is still in service, flown as the F-4E in the air-air and air-ground role as well as still some RF-4C as a reconnaissance asset. These latter ones however are to be put out of service in 2012 and to be replaced by Recce-pod equipped F-16s.
Nonetheless, the view in the sky every once a while reveals some nice sights:
Being in that part of Asia Japan is not far to go and so there was a small detour planned around that trip to Korea. Before that however a short stop was done at Seoul's International Incheon airport, which offers a very nice visitors deck on the East side of the airfield. A little bit elevated there is an excellent view of the airport and nice light in the evening. Unfortunately the sun was hidden behind clouds that day:
Finding a convenient flight from Seoul to Tokyo was no problem and after a short hop I arrived in Japan.
Flying to Japan
One day of civil spotting at Haneda was planned to relax a little after the week in Korea and before the following - most probably exhausting - week in Japan.
With the new Terminal and the additional runway opened since the end of 2010 Haneda now also offers some international flights and proudly calls himself "Tokyo International Airport", obviously contesting Haneda with the offer of international connections and an extensive domestic network.
The new runway build in the sea limits the possibilities to see most of the movements from one of the visitor decks, and many additional international flights to Europe were not seen that day, but the extension of the visitor deck to the East in Terminal two (ANA-side) gladly offers some additional photo possibilities. Furthermore the fence with photo holes was replaced with wires that ease the panning of aircraft on take-off.
As you can see from the photos the weather was far from being perfect that day, but the expectation the see the first Boeing B787 entering airline service was given looking at the fact that ANA was going to start flying this new type the following week.
The new visitors deck made waiting worthwhile and even provided cover during some rain showers, until the 787 finally showed up for some loading trials on the gate. Later on it was towed to a parking position on the apron, giving enough tome to get some shots while the sun sporadically came out.
Some special colour scheme filled more space on the cards in the camera and then it was time to pick up the rental car.
After one more stop in DIY store to get a stepladder it was time to go and see some new military aircraft.
Airshows in Japan
Two airshows in one day...
And by the way, the full showreports can be found here:
The show at Hamamatsu was one of the reasons for this hop from Korea to Japan. Not that much of a well known destination for aircraft enthusiasts as many of the other fast jet bases around Japan Hamamatsu hosts the T-4 training wings as well as the Airborne Warning & Control squadron equipped with 4 Boeing E-767.
Photography-wise the decision was quickly taken to spend the day outside for some nice photos. The spot in question was well known from my last stay there in 2005 and I lined my ladder up with many more Japanese photographers.
Unfortunately heavy showers spoiled some of the displays, including the one of the F-2 from Gifu.
To celebrate the 100th anniversary of Hamamatsu und the 50th anniversary of the Air Rescue Wing as well as to commemorate the Earthquake disaster relief efforts a S-60 helicopter and a U-125 were adorned with special colours. The conditions were not the best to accentuate the scheme on the dark blue helicopter, but it presented very well its both sides of the scheme.
Contrary to this the weather was better for the E-767 and how often do you to see a 767 flight display? The aircraft was very well presented during different fly-bys and a touch&go.
By coincidence another airshow took place the same day at Komaki. My Japanese friend that I would be able to get there driving 'German style' and to also see the KC-767 tanker aircraft of the JASDF on the very same day.
After some more kilometres on the road and many more Yen for the highway toll I was at Komaki.
Komaki / Nagoya is the home of Mitsubishi Heavy Industries - so to say the birthplace of the F-2 and F-15(D)J. It also hosts some of the C-130 Hercules aircraft as well as the KC-767 tanker fleet. With the opening of the CENTRAIR (NGO,Central Japan International Airport) the busy civil days of this former Nagoya/Komaki airport are long gone and part of the apron made place for a big shopping mall, which was quite a big change to see compared to 2005. That mall also offers a big parking place and upon arrival quote a few photographers were seen standing there with their ladders and camera bags.
The morning part of the flight display was of course already finished and the lunch break was on. Time to sit down, have a sushi and a green tea...
The view of the static display on the far side was overwhelming: there was a Shin Meiwa US-1 flying boat, jets from the Gifu-based Test Wing, a E-2C Hawkeye from Misawa and many more. Obviously hopes were high for the fly-out, but there was still some time and more to see until then.
Apart from the rescue demo wit two helicopters and two U-125 the highlight was of course the KC-767 tanker demo. Restricted by the massive surrounding cities it was more or less limited to some fly-bys, only slightly showing its top side in the first run. It then flew out of view to formate with two T-4 and an F-2 from Gifu.
The 'Viper Zero' flew in the receiver position to simulate the air-air refuelling procedure. Afterwards each of the jets performed a (high) fly-by. With the landing of the KC-767 tanker the show was over, the cloudless blue sky and the low light gorgeous and it was time to wait for the fly-out.
The Shin Meiwa flying-boat, easily the highlight for most of the photographers, was first and the sound of its four engines and propellers when set to full power settings on take-off will for long not be forgotten! One visitor after the other then taxied for take-off, and the conditions for all of them were perfect as for the orange/white target-towing U-36A Learjet of the JMSDF, the blue F-2 from Gifu or the bright blue C-130 Hercules. Combined with the trees in the background better photographic conditions are rare...
After the last aircraft was gone and the fire trucks also left, it was time to sit down, relax and think a bit about this great day. The last photos were shot of a Fuji Dream Airlines (FDA) E170 coming in shortly before sunset.
The most impressive (and expensive...) highway was next, fortunately in the direction of leaving the mega-conglomeration of Nagoya, Kobe and so on. The kilometre-long traffic jams leading back towards the city made it easy to guess that many people spent that beautiful day North of the city in the mountains enjoying the Autumn colours and some fresh air.
This was also my plan for the next day. Heading Northwards Mt. Fuji was the first target the next day.
Japanese Marine Self Defence Force - JMSDF
Fog early in the morning was not the best thing to start the day, and under through the gray layer above Lake Kawaguchiko it could only be guessed where the top of Japans highest, and of course most well-known, volcano was hidden.
A short drive along the lake finally revealed the desired view and the leafs of the trees were still showing their autumn colours, however the top of Mt. Fuji was not yet covered with snow and in the short term the clouds also won the fight and Fuji was soon covered again. Time to move on...
Atsugi was next on the list. This base is in the hands of the US Navy and mostly known by the detachments of the Pacific Carrier Air Wings. However this time the Navy was on cruise, thus the expectations to see their aircraft were low and all the hopes were lying on the JMSDF, which is also using the base.
Movements were not as big as on other airfields, but the arrival of one US-2 Shin Meiwa, being there on detachment from Iwakuni, was a welcomed sight, though the dark blue colour did not really pop out against the hazy sky.
But the type to see at Atsugi this time was the Kawasaki P-1, previously known as the P-X. This indigenous development is intended to become the JMSDF's successor of the venerable P-3 Orion. With only two aircraft flying at the moment the chances were not that high, but as the second prototype 5502 was placed outside the shelter there was a certain chance to see it in the air.
As it became evident later on the test crews were just waiting for the clouds to clear up a bit before starting their flight and the test was scheduled for midday. Another highlight was the chase aircraft for this flight, JMSDF's only UP-3C Orion, this one also being the only remaining Japanese Orion in the grey on white scheme with colourful tail markings.
After their take-off they left for a 4 hour test flight and with both aircraft well on 'film' it was time to move on.
The Tateyama airfield an airbase located on the other aide of Tokyo bay and hosts the 21 Kokugun (Fleet Air Wing). Best reached by a 10km long tunnel under the Tokyo bay followed by a bridge of nearly the same length this is not the cheapest, but most convenient way.
The arrival there was in well in time for the afternoon wave to come back, but unfortunately the flying activity was very low. The following request to photograph the gate guards (two Sea Kings, one Sea Hawk and two aircraft) resulted also in an invitation to visit the base museum explaining the JMSDF history as well as the wings present activities, including moving documentations of the disaster relief activities following the big earthquake followed by the disastrous Tsunami in March 2011.
After this visit two S-60 returning to base concluded this rather quiet but very nice 'Navy' day.
Once again it was finished with a drive through the night. Only half an hour after sunset the glowing green bamboo forests were only black silhouettes against the dark blue sky, with some small and bright reflections in the watered rice fields.
Hyakuri Air Base - JASDF
Then is was time for the JASDF, and once again it proved to be true that Hyakuri needs at least two days to get some good photos. With the Japanese F-15 fleet still on the ground due to an accident with an external fuel tank that happened some weeks before, the flying activity was rather low, but Hyakuri nearly became a Phantom-only base – that is of course apart from the usual T-4 trainer aircraft.
These noisy and smoking little jets were the only aircraft of the F-15-flying 305 Hikotai to be seen, but whereas their future within the JASDF is still long, the days of the venerable RF-4 Recce Phantoms seem to be counted. Rumours speak of only a dozen airworthy aircraft of the mixed fleet of RF-4E and RF-4EJ and an end of their career in the timeframe of 2012/2013. But without a proper reconnaissance asset replacements this might change.
Nonetheless 4 bright tan coloured E-models seen on the ramp seem to be the biggest part of the rest of the once acquired 14 aircraft. Adding to this came some RF-4EJ, easily recognizable by their dark green camouflage, but without the real Recce nose.
The first day at an for end-October unusual humid and hazy Hyakuri was not the best to get some nice photos, but the morning of the second the wind from the North brought some clear and dry air into the area after experiencing some night-flying activities.
The next day it was (nearly) photographers heaven and all one could ask for: nice morning light, good looking jets and quite some flying activity.
302 Hikotai is the second Phantom Squadron at Hyakuri. Once known as 'Naha Phantoms' they have moved North in 2009 and can easily be recognized by their colourful eagle tail markings.
However their flying was also restricted by the fuel tank problems of the F-15 and flying was limited to only two aircraft in each round carrying no additional fuel. But nonetheless some touch&goes were done in the afternoon and provided many opportunities to get some nice shots with the Autumn-coloured trees in the background.
Chitose Air Base - JASDF
Hokkaido is the Japan's Northern Island, and offers apart from a beautuful scenery also some special sights to the aviation enthusiast: Chitose, which is the northernmost airfield of the JASDF and home of two Squadrons of F-15s (201 & 203 Hikotai) as well as the fleet of the two Boeing B747-400 VIP-aircraft.
Relating to their position as the Northern outpost the markings of 203 Hikotai feature a nice panda bear backed by a red flash, whereas 201 Hikotai features an arctic wolf.
As the grounding of the Eagles was still effective, only active T-4 could be photographed. Not the best thing to do, but at least a possibility to try out different spots and appreciate the nice 'Northern-style' background.
On the second day the ramp was filled with some F-15s, and the QRA aircraft were changed. So there was last the chance to get a glimpse of these Japanese Northern defenders.
And for a surprise there were also quite some 305 Hikotai Eagles from Hyakuri on the ramp. Obviously this was for a detachment from Hyakuri before the grounding became effective.
Of course this hop to Chitose was a disappointment due to the lack of flying activity, but the remote location offers also the chance to get some rare visitors. During the two days there these were of course transport aircraft such as the C-130 Hercules or C-1, but the airbase also saw regular visits of Recce Phantoms from Hyakuri, thus virtually increasing their effective range and making it possible to fly more far North or to longer loiter any sea area East of Japan. After an RF-4E the first day an RF-4EJ was also spotted. Much to my surprise it featured a special painted silver tank with "1961-2011" written on it, celebrating the 50th anniversary of 501 Hikotai. This one would have been a treat on the taxiway at Hyakuri rather than sitting far away on the ramp at Chitose...
Of course their real mission of the assets will remain a secret, as it is also the case for one of the rare ELINT-modified YS-11, which arrived at Chitose for a nightstop.
Take-off the next morning was just in time for the flight back to Seoul, where a visit to the "Osan Airpower Day" of the PACAF should put a good end to this trip.
PACAF Osan Air Power Day - South Korea
The two-day airshow at Osan provided a nice end to this trip with flying displays of many RoKAF aircraft as well as an PACAF airpower demo employing many flares and flying of the famous U-2. Summarized you will see photos here, the more extensive report is linked HERE.
After two weeks, two countries, numerous gigabytes filled on the memory cards and plenty of nice memories in the mind it was time to head back home again.
Courtesy of Lufthansa the A340 brought me back via the vast Siberian landscape to Munich, landing at Sunset and being thrown back into a cold and nasty autumn weather.Thank you for rating this article.