Text & Pictures: Philippe Decock ęsbap 2021
Matsushima Air Base is a Japan Air Self-Defense Force (JASDF) base located in Higashimatsushima (about 30 kilometers north-east of Sendai, about 300 kilometers north of Tokyo), on the island of Honshu, the largest island of the japanese archipelago.
History :

The base was established on 7 June 1937 as a base for the Imperial Japanese Navy Air Service during the Second Sino-Japanese War. The Matsushima Naval Air Group was a shore-based unit equipped with Mitsubishi G3M and Mitsubishi G4M bombers and participated in the battle of Okinawa during WWII. The base was bombed five times in the last weeks of the war.

In the early post-war era, the American occupation forces started to revive the Japanese military with the creation of the National Safety Forces.

In 1954, " Camp Matsushima " was renamed " Matsushima Air Field " and training operations for the fledgling JASDF began on 6 July with the newly formed 2nd Flying Training School using USAF North American T-6 Texan trainers. The unit became 4 Wing in February 1958 and assumed a front-line role in addition to its fighter training role.

In August 1957, Hamamatsu based 5 Hikotai provided a training detachment of North American F-86F Sabre. Its role changed from training to front-line fighter unit on 1 July 1960 and it assumed readiness from 1 March 1962.
A second F-86F squadron, 7 Hikotai, was formed in Matsushima on 1 February 1960 but was disbanded on 30 June 1977.
The unit today designated as 11 Hikotai / Blue Impulse Aerobatic Team has its origins in 2 Hikotai when a Kuchukido Kenkyuhan or Air Manoeuvering Research Group was established on 12 April 1960 with five F-86F fighters.
On 1 July 1960, 4 Wing was tranfered to the Central Air Defence Force and dropped its training role.
A third F-86F squadron, 8 Hikotai, was created on 29 October 1960 but it left Matsushima for Komaki in April 1961.
A fourth F-86F unit, 9 Hikotai, was formed on 1 February 1961 but left for Iruma on 15 July 1961.
Another unit formed in Matsushima was the 501 Hikotai, established on 1 December 1961 with RF-86F, but it moved to Iruma in August 1962.
On 30 July 1971, an F-86F Sabre on a training mission from Matsushima collided with All Nippon Airways Flight 58, a Boeing 727 on a flight from Sapporo-Chitose to Tokyo-Haneda, causing the death of all 155 passengers and 7 crew members on board the airliner. The JASDF pilot managed to get out of his aircraft and used his parachute to land safely.
On 23 August 1973, 4 Wing was transfered to the Flying Training Command and 7 Hikotai became the F-86F Operational Conversion Unit (OCU) aside the newly created 35 Hikotai and its Lockheed T-33A Shooting Star asuming a training role.
Two Mitsubishi T-2 units (21 and 22 Hikotai) were formed in 1976 and 1978 respectively and replaced 7 Hikotai being disbanded and 35 Hikotai being transfered to Hamamatsu.
The Blue Impulse role was assumed by 21 Hikotai from 1982 with the Mitsubishi T-2.
In June 1991, the Mitsubishi T-4 was selected as the new mount for the JASDF Aerobatic Team.
The first Blue Impulse T-4 arrived on 11 August 1994.
On 22 December 1995, 11 Hikotai became the official unit designation of the Blue Impulse following the disbandment of the Combat Research Group, part of 21 Hikotai.
The final T-2 flight by 22 Hikotai occured on 16 March 2001 and the squadron disbanded on 27 March 2001.
The first Mitsubishi F-2B arrived on 1 April 2002 and 21 Hikotai completed its transition on the new aircraft on 29 March 2004.
On 11 March 2011, the base's apron and hangars were flooded by a tsunami, caused by an earthquake, and eighteen Mitsubishi F-2B's belonging to 21 Hikotai, together with other aircraft, were damaged or destroyed. Five of the F-2's were damaged beyond repair.
Fortunately, the Blue Impulse team was away on that day and suffered no damage.
The team returned to Matsushima in March 2013.
On the other hand, 21 Hikotai remained temporarily based in Misawa for another three years and only returned on 20 March 2016.

Sharing the base with 4 Wing is the Matsushima Air Rescue Squadron.
The Matsushima Rescue Detachment was established on 20 September 1960. It was redesignated Air Rescue Squadron on 1 December 1964.
The service used a multitude of aircraft such as licensed-built Mitsubishi H-19C and S-62J, Piasecki H-21B, and licensed-built Kawasaki KV-107 helicopters, North American T-6G Texan and Mitsubishi MU-2S aircraft.
The squadrons is now equipped with British Aerospace U-125 and Mitsubishi UH-60J.

Matsushima Air Base today :

4 Kokudan :

- 11 Hikotai : Kawasaki T-4 (Blue Impulse)
- 21 Hikotai : Mitsubishi F-2B

Air Rescue Wing :

- Matsushima Air Rescue Squadron : Mitsubishi UH-60J / British Aerospace U-125

"Home of the Blue Impulse" You know where you are!
(Philippe Decockę)
Mitsubishi F-2B 03-8103 (c/n 3003) from 21 Hikotai
(Philippe Decockę)
A second circuit for the 103
(Philippe Decockę)
Anything coming from the right?
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Pair landing for these two Mitsubishi F-2Bs from 21 Hikotai: 23-8113 (c/n 3013) and 23-8115 (c/n 3015)
(Philippe Decockę)
Mitsubishi F-2B 03-8104 (c/n 3004) from 21 Hikotai
(Philippe Decockę)
Mitsubishi F-2B 33-8124 (c/n 3024) from 21 Hikotai
(Philippe Decockę)
A last circuit for the 104 before landing...
(Philippe Decockę)
...and same for the 124
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Kawasaki T-4 66-5745 (c/n 1145) from 11 Hikotai
(Philippe Decockę)
Blue Impulse #3: apart from air shows, the team's planes are used for advanced training
(Philippe Decockę)
Close up on the student pilot and instructor
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Same job for the Blue Impulse # 2
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Kawasaki T-4 26-5686 (c/n 1086) from 11 Hikotai
(Philippe Decockę)
Blue Impulse # 4 on final
(Philippe Decockę)
Kawasaki T-4 36-5697 (c/n 1097) from 11 Hikotai
(Philippe Decockę)
Blue Impulse without position number probably used as spare aircraft
(Philippe Decockę)
Kawasaki T-4 46-5731 (c/n 1131) from 11 Hikotai
(Philippe Decockę)
Second mission of the day for the 103
(Philippe Decockę)
Focused student and relaxed instructor
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A splendid and unusual paint scheme for European photographers
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Another mission for the 124
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Full stop landing for this mission
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Mitsubishi F-2A/B "Viper Zero"
In 1987, the JASDF selected a variant of the F-16C as the Japanese FS-X aircraft to replace the Mitsubishi F-1 aircraft, and in 1988 Mitsubishi was selected as prime contractor for the aircraft developement, which became known as the F-2. 
The programme involved technology transfer from the USA to Japan, and responsibility for cost sharing was split 60% by Japan and 40% by the USA. Four flying prototypes were developed, along with two static prototypes for static testing and fatigue tests. Flight trials of the prototypes were successfully completed by 1997, and the aircraft entered production in 1998.
The first production aircraft was delivered to the Japanese Defence Agency in March 2005. 

General Electric, Kawasaki, Honeywell, Raytheon, NEC, Hazeltine, and Kokusai Electric were among the primary component sub-contractors. Lockheed Martin supplied the aft fuselage, leading-edge slats, stores management system, a large percentage of wing boxes (as part of two-way technology transfer agreements), and other components. Kawasaki built the midsection of the fuselage, as well as the doors to the main wheel and the engine, while the forward fuselage and wings were built by Mitsubishi. Some of the avionics were supplied by Lockheed Martin, and the digital fly-by-wire system was jointly developed by Japan Aviation Electric and Honeywell (formerly Allied Signal). Contractors for communication systems and IFF interrogators included Raytheon, NEC, Hazeltine, and Kokusai Electric. The fire control radar, IRS, the mission computer, and the EW system were developed by Japan. In addition, the flight control computer, the flight control laws and related computer software were essentially all developed and integrated by Japan.
Final assembly was done in Japan, by MHI at its Komaki-South facility in Nagoya.
F-2 vs F-16
Larger wings give an aircraft better payload and manoeuvrability in proportion to its thrust, but also tend to add weight to the airframe in various ways. More weight can have negative effects on acceleration, climbing, payload, and range. To make the larger wings lighter, the skin, spars, ribs and cap of the wings were made from graphite-epoxy composite and co-cured in an autoclave. This was the first application of co-cured technology to a production tactical fighter. This technology for the wings encountered some teething problems, but proved to be a leading-edge use of a technology that provides weight savings, improved range, and some stealth benefits.
This technology was then transferred back to America, as part of the program's industrial partnership.
Differences between F-2 and F-16 block 40:
Mitsubishi used the existing F-16 design as a reference guide for design work, and more than 95% of F-16 engineering drawings are changed for F-2.

XF-2A: Single-seat prototypes
XF-2B: Two-seat prototypes
F-2A: Single-seat fighter version
F-2B: Two-seat training version

Some differences in the F-2 from the F-16A:
25% larger wing area
Composite materials used to reduce overall weight and radar signature
Longer and wider nose to accommodate a J/APG-1/J/APG-2 active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar. The F-2 was the first operational military aircraft in the world to feature an AESA radar, before the F-22 Raptor's AN/APG-77 AESA radar.
Larger tail plane
Larger air intake
Three-piece cockpit canopy

Technical data's

Length: 15.52m
- 11.12m over missile launchers
- 10.80m without missile launchers
Wing area: 34.84m2
Aspect ratio: 3.3
Empty weight:
- F-2A: 9527kg
- F-2B: 9633kg
Gross weight: 13459kg clean
Max take-off weight: 22,100 kg
Maximum landing weight: 18300kg
Fuel capacity: 4637l (F-2A) / 3948l (F-2B)
Internal fuel: 4588l (F-2A) / 3903l (F-2B)
External Fuel capacity: 5678l maximum
Powerplant: Single General Electric F110-IHI-129 afterburning turbofan
- 17000 lbf thrust dry
- 29500 lbf with afterburner

Maximum speed: 2124 km/h
Maximum speed: Mach 1.7 at high altitude / Mach 1.1 at low altitude
Combat range: 833 km
Service ceiling: 18000m
Wing loading: 634.3 kg/m2
Thrust/weight: 0.994

Gun: 20mm JM61A1
Rocket pod JLAU-3/A
Air to Air missiles:
- Mitsubishi AAM-3
- Mitsubishi AAM-4
- Mitsubishi AAM-5
- AIM-9 Sidewinder
- AIM-7 Sparrow
Air-to-ground weapons:
- ASM-1
- ASM-2 anti-ship missiles
- GCS-1 IIR seeker heads
- JDAM bombs
Electronic counter measure: J/AAQ-2 FLIR, later AN/AAQ-33

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