Text & Pictures: Philippe Decock ęsbap 2021

Naha Air Base is a Japan Air Self-Defense Force (JASDF) airfield located near the city of Naha, Okinawa, an island located halfway between Kyushu, the southernmost island of the japanese archipelago, and Taiwan.
It is the most important JASDF base in southern Japan and is tasked with monitoring Japan's maritime borders with China.

History :

Naha Airfield was constructed for the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) in 1933 as Oroku Naval Air Base. In 1936, the control of the airfield was handed over to the Japanese Ministry of Communications and it was renamed Naha Airfield.
In 1942, the Navy regained control of the base and reverted the name to Oroku Naval Air Base.
The american troops captured the airfield on 1 April 1945.
After WWII, the airfield became a major USAF Air Base under operational control of Pacific Air Forces (PACAF) and was named Naha Air Base.
Naha was home to several USAF fighter and transport units.
Fighters were flown by the 51th Fighter Group (later 51th Fighter-Interceptor Wing) which was composed of three squadrons : 16th, 25th and 26th. They flew the Lockheed F-80 Shooting Star, the North American F-86 Sabre and, for one of them (16th), the Convair F-102A Delta Dagger. Transport aircraft were Fairchild C-119 Flying Boxcar flown by the 21st Troop Carrier Squadron and Lockheed C-130 Hercules flown by the 21st, 35th and 817th Troop Carrier (later Tactical Airlift) Squadrons.
The base became a joint civilian-military airfield in 1954 with the resumption of civilian air traffic between Tokyo and Okinawa.
The U.S. Air Force left Naha on 31 May 1971 and the control of the airfield was tranferred to the Japanese Ministry of Transportation which established Naha Airport on the site. The control of the military side of the airfield was transferred to the Japan Air Self-Defense Force in 1979.

Over the years, several JASDF Fighter units have been based in Naha.
207 Hikotai flew the Lockheed F-104J Starfighter out of Naha from November 1972 until its disbandment in March 1986.
302 Hikotai arrived in November 1985 with its licensed-built Mitsubishi F-4EJ Phantom II to replace 207 Hikotai and stayed until March 2009 where it transfered to Hyakuri.
In January 2009, 204 Hikotai, flying the licensed-built Mitsubishi F-15J/DJ Eagle, arrived to replace 302 Hikotai.
It was joined by 304 Hikotai in January 2016, also flying the Mitsubishi F-15J/DJ Eagle.

The Misawa based 601 Hikotai, flying the Grumman E-2C Hawkeye Airborne Early Warning and Control Aircraft, started training detachments from Naha in 2012.
As a permanent presence of AEW&C aircraft in the region was deemed necessary, 603 Hikotai was created in April 2014 with four E-2C.

A first rescue detachment started to operate out of Naha in October 1972 with Mitsubishi MU-2S later joigned by Kawasaki KV-107 (licensed-built Boeing-Vertol CH-46) helicopters.
Those aircraft were replaced by British Aerospace U-125 and Mitsubishi UH-60J respectively.
A third type of aircraft now at the disposal of the Air Rescue Wing is the licensed-built Kawasaki CH-47J Chinook previously controlled by the Helicopter Airlift Squadron. They arrived in Naha in March 1992.
Another JASDF unit based in Naha is the Southwestern HQ Support Flight formed in May 1972 with Lockheed T-33 Shooting Star. The unit now flies the Kawasaki T-4.
Another service based in Naha is the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force or JMSDF.
5 Kokutai, flying the licensed-built Kawasaki P-2J Neptune, started operations from Naha on 15 May 1972. The Neptune was replaced by the Lockheed P-3C Orion in March 1991.
A second P-3C Unit, 9 Kokutai, was formed in Naha on 30 July 1993 but was disbanded on 26 March 2008 as it merged with 5 Kokutai.

Last but not least, Naha is home to 11th region of the Japan Coast Guard.
The first aircraft flown by the service out of Naha were Beech Model 18 in January 1975.
Today, a mix of Dassault Falcon 2000MSA, Bombardier DHC-8MPA and Agusta Westland AW139 is used.

Unfortunately, our spotting day in Naha was a non-flying day for the JASDF.
Only JMSDF and Coast Guards flew some missions.
There were many airliners to be seen but they are the subject of another report:

Naha Air Base today :


9 Kokudan :

- 204 Hikotai : Mitsubishi F-15J/DJ Eagle / Kawasaki T-4
- 304 Hikotai : Mitsubishi F-15J/DJ Eagle / Kawasaki T-4

Airborne Early Warning and Control Wing :

- 603 Hikotai : Grumman E-2C Hawkeye

Air Rescue Wing :

- Naha Air Rescue Squadron : Mitsubishi UH-60J / British Aerospace U-125
- Naha Helicopter Airlift Squadron : Kawasaki CH-47J Chinook

HQ Support Flight :

- Kawasaki T-4


5 Kokutai :

- 51 Hikotai : Lockheed P-3C Orion

- 52 Hikotai : Lockheed P-3C Orion

Japan Coast Guard

- Dassault Falcon 2000MSA, Bombardier DHC-8MPA, Agusta Westland AW139

JGSDF Kawasaki CH-47J Chinook
(Philippe Decockę)
P-3C on approach
(Philippe Decockę)
Profile view of P-3C 5071
(Philippe Decockę)
Profile view of a Japan Coast Guard Bombardier DHC-8MPA
(Philippe Decockę)
P-3C 5070 on final
(Philippe Decockę)
Close up on the cockpit
(Philippe Decockę)
Lockheed P-3C 5036
(Philippe Decockę)
Note the observer at the window
(Philippe Decockę)
P-3C 5076 on final
(Philippe Decockę)
Lockheed P-3C 5087
(Philippe Decockę)
Turning final
(Philippe Decockę)
Winter sunlight
(Philippe Decockę)
Lockheed P-3C 5087 on approach
(Philippe Decockę)
Front view
(Philippe Decockę)
Profile view
(Philippe Decockę)
Japan Coast Guard Dassault Falcon 2000MSA
(Philippe Decockę)
USMC UC-35 inbound MCAS Futenma
(Philippe Decockę)
Kadena-based 909ARS KC-135R
(Philippe Decockę)
Another KC-135R inbound Kadena
(Philippe Decockę)
USMC VMM-262 MV-22B inbound MCAS Futenma
(Philippe Decockę)

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