November 23rd, Kakamigahara area, Japan. On this beautiful autumn afternoon the calm winds blows and lightens the trees from their autumn colored leaves. Families are sitting in the park with their children and watch a formation overflight of 11 aircraft of the JASDF Flight Test Wing ADTW. It is the day of the Gifu airshow!
Where? Gifu, Japan
Some kilometers further away the crowd sits densely packed on the apron and watches the show. There are not many different aircraft in the air, but different set-ups keep the movements busy and the photographers happy. Constantly shooting directly into the sun if they attend the event.
The good shots are only possible from other locations. The approach is rather nice as all the planes pass there once their display is finished or for the action shots the area opposite the airfield is a good viewing point as the jets are doing their circles around this area. It is a different choice that leaves not many options for the serious photographers!
On the showground itself the static display is quite alright, but personally I have expected some more and interesting static displays of a test wing. The F-2A prototype, XF-2A „63-8501“ was displayed in a hangar with several new weapons under development with the JASDF and currently under test at the „Air Development and Test Wing“ (ADTW). But apart from that there was only T-4 and F-15 available to sit in the cockpit and a F-4EJ Phantom II doing ground demonstrations of the hydraulic system.
On the apron itself there were no other aircraft to be seen apart from those on the flightline, which was a bit disappointing, especially as I was in the hope to spot the (nowadays already put out of service) T-2CCV, which was still put on display during the last shows.
Active aircraft on „the other side of the fence“ were 3 helicopters of the the JGSDF (UH-60, AH-64D, OH-1), the (X)C-2, T-400, the still omni-present RF-4E Phantom II and a U-125 Flightchecker as well as the (X)C-1, which led the big formation fly-by later in the afternoon. Apart from that there was a really impressive line-up of six F-4EJ Phantoms!
The first in the row was also the first Phantom to be delivered to the JASDF, serial 17-8301, and it was painted in a special gull grey retro scheme to celebrate the JASDF 60th anniversary. This scheme was worn by the first Japanese Phantoms in the beginning of their career, though in the very early days a big red roundel did still dominate the view. This was later on reduced to the size that is still applied nowadays. The scheme was simple and effective, and made that Phantom really stand out in front of the impressive line-up of 6 F-4EJs!
The flying display did mainly consist of a big formation in an even bigger one in the afternoon, doing the big „Gifu Test Wing“ formation flight and forming the „60“ to celebrate the JASDF 60th anniversary in this year. The formation was made up of the different types belonging to the wing, thus mainly the (X)F-2, F-15 and F-4, with the T-7 and T-4 trainers participating as well. Several formations were flown, and the time in-between the formation changes was used by some of the jets to do their solo displays. In the afternoon the first prototype of the C-1, which is nowadays used as a Flight Testbed (FTB) for the C-2 program, was the „big“ formation lead. And it looked splendid in its all natural aluminum scheme!!
Smaller contributions for the flying came from the nearby Komaki airbase: a U-125 and UH-60 did perform a rescue demo, a C-130 Hercules did several fly-bys and a JASDF KC-767 tanker demonstrated a air-air refueling formation flight with an F-15J Eagle, accompanied by an F-2.
All summing up the show was rather nice with some drawbacks regarding the photo positions and static display, but the weather was great and the Gifu is still the only place to catch some of the test wings aircraft and early Japanese fighter jet prototypes. Because not a lot can beat those first F-2s in their glossy high contrast and colorful markings!