Paul Dunn's 2010 blogGAR Entries

APR 05 2010
Hyakuri Airbase, Japan

Carlsberg don’t do airbases, but if they did Hyakuri would probably be pretty close to what they would produce. With three very active squadrons based there and some excellent locations for viewing and photography, it’s a truly great place to visit, as I found out back in November last year.

However, Japan as a country is “blessed” with a climate which is quite similar to our own in the UK, meaning weather conditions can never be guaranteed for any visit. I found this out to my cost in November when after a successful afternoon’s shooting on the first day, I returned on the second day to find rain and low cloud had put paid to any flying.

This time around, I awoke at the hotel in Narita to find similar conditions to last time, but decided to still give the place a try. I arrived at the airfield at about 0700 to find that the main ramp was busy with around 12 F-4EJs, eight F-15s and several T-4 trainers all having been dragged out of the hangars.

Whilst driving around the base to scout out some of the viewing locations, I was surprised to see a pair of F-4EJs taxy out from the alert facility. They lined up, ran their engines up... and then taxied back to their hangar! Despite the disappointment that they didn’t fly, it was still good to catch the jets on the runway, as they were both “tooled up” with Mitsubishi AAM-3 missiles.

About an hour later the above procedure was repeated with the other two alert jets. It appears that this is a daily ritual and afterwards the alert hangar was closed up and remained so for the duration of my visit.

Next “movement” was a flight of two F-4EJs which started up on the main ramp and taxied out for departure. Frustratingly both aircraft went through the same power check procedure on the runway before again returning to the apron!

By now, I was starting to get a little cheesed off with getting out of the car and getting wet only to see the aircraft merely return to the ramp without flying, but shortly after a pair of T-4s took off and flew approaches for a period, which was certainly a welcome diversion. Both were from 501 Hikotai, which primarily operates the RF-4E/RF-4EJ.

Whilst watching the T-4s I became aware of the sound of an approaching helicopter. As it grew closer I realised that it was the unmistakable sound of a Chinook, and presently a JASDF CH-47J appeared from the murk. Most Japanese Chinooks are operated by the JGSDF, but this aircraft was one of the JASDF operated aircraft, from the Herikoputa Kuuyutai (Helicopter Airlift Squadron) at Iruma Airbase. Japanese Chinooks are painted in a smart camouflage scheme and I have wanted to catch one for a while, so whilst it was pleasing to see one, the weather certainly didn’t help the resulting images!

I headed back towards the main ramp and sat there for a while. The T-4s had landed by now, and all was quiet. I became aware of approaching jet engines, and was slightly surprised to see an Asiana A320 land! A civilian terminal was recently built at the airfield (now known as Ibaraki Airport) and Asiana are the first airline to start scheduled services from the new facility, with a daily service to Seoul.

During the course of the day, the rain had started to ease off a little, and I was hoping the afternoon would see some better weather and maybe some flying. Sadly this was not to be as at around 1300 ground crew began the process of putting their aircraft back in the hangars. Feeling pretty despondent I made my way back to Narita, stopping to shoot a former JASDF H-19 Chickasaw helicopter hulk in someone’s back garden!

GAR wants to interact with its readers so if you have a question for the author or a comment to make on this feature, please click on the button below. The best comments will appear right here on GAR.

Deprecated: mysql_connect(): The mysql extension is deprecated and will be removed in the future: use mysqli or PDO instead in /var/sites/g/globalaviationresource.com/public_html/comments/displaycomments.php on line 8

Global Aviation Resource's photographic and written work is subject to copyright and may not be reproduced or distributed in any form without express written permission.

If you would like to discuss using any of our imagery or feature content please contact us.