After a grey first day of shooting in Japan, at Tsuiki, thankfully the weather cleared up and looked promising for the first of two days at Nyutabaru Air Base, near the town of Shintomi and roughly 10.5 miles north of Miyazaki in the Miyazaki Prefecture.
This airfield is slightly skewed in an east-west direction, and this gives visitors just a small window to shoot departures from the north-west end of runway 28, an area close to the fence.
We found a small track adjacent to a farmer’s field close by, parked up, and walked the short distance to the fence to set-up.
It wasn’t long before a few local photographers appeared, always a good sign and one that meant our intel on the time that flying would start was pretty accurate.
The first aircraft to come along was the weather flight T-4. The sun wasn’t in a particularly favourable position at this early hour, but the T-4 gave us an opportunity to gauge if our location was a good one, and precisely where to position ourselves on the fence line.
The first batch of aircraft to taxi down towards us were four F-4EJ Phantoms from 301 Squadron.
Even better, the lead aircraft was a specially painted blue example celebrating the 40th anniversary of 301 Squadron, or the “Phantom Mother Squadron” as the scheme says.
Certainly a fantastic start to our day and the scheme looks stunning! There are more images in the gallery below.
An hour later a bunch of F-15Js from Hiko Kyodotai (Tactical Fighter Training Squadron) taxied out, and the sun was almost down the runway too, just about acceptable for shooting.
After the Eagles departed it was time to move on and explore the southern side of the airfield.
Now, this side of Nyutabaru has countless places to shoot – and it doesn’t matter which direction the aircraft are flying either.
Landing, rotation, take-off, taxiing or approach; all are possible from the southern side, so there is real variety on offer!
As a result, we explored the whole south side for the rest of the day, taking advantage of the many opportunities.
Generally speaking, in Japan, each based squadron flies sorties in a rotation and you’ll normally see each at least two rotations per day.
On the first day the rotation was 301 Squadron F-4Js, then Hiko Kyodotai F-15DJ and F-15Js, followed by 23 Squadron F-15DJ and F-15Js.
Interspersed with these were other movements, by T-4 and U-125A (HS-125) aircraft.
We also spotted the JASDF’s one and only Kawasaki EC-1 aircraft, parked up on one of the stands. It didn’t fly on the first day, so we assumed it was flying at night.
On the following day however, we were extremely lucky to catch it as it departed from the northern side early in the morning. A great bonus!
I’d scoped out an area on day one where we could get shots of the KV107 that was stored near the QRA sheds, however, the sun was on the wrong side of the aircraft for a decent shot, so we made a point of visiting this area again early the next morning. This KV107 was a based helicopter when it was active, and is actually the very last KV107 built.
Also in this area was a pair of disused F-4EJs, one missing its tail, which had apparently been used as a memorial elsewhere.
Throughout the day we moved around the farmers’ fields, getting different angles, mostly of the same aircraft that had flown the day before.
We missed the EC-1 arriving back, but luckily for us it performed a second sortie that day, and by now they’d changed the direction of take-offs. We were perfectly positioned for the rotation, and I was surprised on how steeply the aircraft could climb. It was certainly a spectacular departure!
In truth I could have stayed here all week and not visited anywhere else! The access around the base was simply superb, but we needed to try to catch some other interesting aircraft. Pt.4 sees us visit Ozuki and Hofu-kita Air Bases.