Text & Pictures: Philippe Decock ęsbap 2021
 
 
Chitose Air Base is a Japan Air Self-Defense Force (JASDF) airfield located near Chitose (about 40 kilometers south-east of Sapporo), Hokkaido, the northernmost island of the japanese archipelago.
It is the most important JASDF base in northern Japan, located next to New Chitose Airport, and is tasked with monitoring Japan's maritime borders with Russia.
It was also Hokkaido's primary civilian airport until the opening of New Chitose Airport in 1988.
Together, these two jointly operated and connected airports create one of the largest regional airports in Japan.
 
 
History :

The first flight out of Chitose took place in 1926 when the Otaru Shimbun newspaper sponsored the "Hokkai One" flight, originating from a 10-hectare field donated by the villagers.
In 1939, the Imperial Japanese Navy took over the airfield.

U.S. use :

After Japan's surrender in 1945, the United States Armed Forces took control of the base. The United States Army Air Force was first to occupy it followed by the United States Air Force Fifth Air Force.
The most important units based there were the 3rd Air Commando Group (309th Bombardment Wing), between October 1945 and March 1946, and the 49th Fighter Group (later Wing) between February 1946 and April 1948.
The base was used as a maintenance and logistic facility in the late 1940's, prior to the war in Korea, under the operational control of the 314th Air Division headquartered in Johnson Air Base, the name given to Iruma Air Base by the USAF during her stay at the base.
As a result of the Korean War, the 6163rd Air Base Wing was activated on 1 January 1951. The airfield was mainly used as an emergency landing field for aircraft returning from combat missions over Korea and as a maintenance and repair depot by the Technical Service Command.
During the Allied occupation, Japan Airlines operated its first scheduled passengers flight between Chitose and Tokyo.
Following the 1953 ceasefire, the F-86 Sabre-equipped USAF 4th Fighter Group left Chitose for Kimpo Air Base (K-14), Korea, in September 1954.
The only American combat unit assigned to Chitose, the squadron that provided air defense for the island of Hokkaido for several years, was inactivated on 1 July 1957 due to budget cuts.
With the inactivation of the 4th Fighter Wing, Chitose was returned to Japanese control.
The U.S. maintained a communication facility at the base until December 1970 and ended all operations in Chitose on 30 June 1975.

Civilian use :

The passenger terminal at Chitose Airport opened in 1963.
Chitose quickly became the main airport serving the Sapporo metropolis as Okadama Airport was too small to accomodate jet aircraft.
Immigration facilities were constructed in 1969, prior to the opening of the 1972 Winter Olympics in Sapporo.
The only scheduled international service at Chitose was a Japan Air System flight to Honolulu, Hawai, with a stop in Tokyo Narita. That flight was operated from 1981 to 1987.
All civilian passenger flights were transfered to New Chitose Airport in 1988.

JASDF use :

Chitose based 2 Kokudan (Wing) was established in Hamamatsu on 1 October 1956.
A progressive relocation to Chitose was completed on 2 September 1957 with 3, 4 and 6 Hikotais (squadrons) all equipped with the North American F-86F Sabre.
From February 1959, Search and Rescue was provided by the Koku Kyunangun, now Koku Kyunandan. 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, Beechcraft T-34 Mentor, North American T-6G Texan and Mitsubishi MU-2S aircraft. The squadron is now equipped with British Aerospace U-125 and Mitsubishi UH-60J.
In November 1959, 6 Hikotai left Chitose for Nyutabaru.
Another squadron, 103 Hikotai, arrived in Chitose from Komaki in June 1961 flying the North American F-86D Sabre Dog. It stopped its readiness operations on 1 December 1963 and was disbanded on 1 October 1968.
In May 1961, 4 Hikotai left Chitose for Komatsu and later became the nucleus of 303 Hikotai.
On 5 March 1963, 3 Hikotai left Chitose for Matsushima.
Three days later, on 8 March 1963, 201 Hikotai was formed in Chitose to operate the
Lockheed F-104J Starfighter.
On 25 June 1964, 203 Hikotai was formed in Komaki to operate the same aircraft but quickly moved to Chitose and started QRA duties as from 1 December 1964. The squadron replaced the Starfighter by the licensed-built Mitsubishi F-15J/DJ Eagle on 24 March 1984. The squadron's aircraft sport a cartoon-like brown bear (in black and white) flanked by stylized red flashes making a 2 on the left and a 3 on the right, the belly of the bear being the 0 with two red stars on it as a reference to 2 Kokudan.
201 Hikotai disbanded in Chitose on 1 October 1974, to be reformed on the very same base on 19 March 1986. It was the fourth Hikotai to be equipped with the mighty Eagle. Its aircraft are adorned with a bear head on their tail.
Following the disbandmant of 201 Hikotai, 302 Hikotai was formed in Chitose with the licensed-built Mitsubishi F-4EJ Phantom II. The squadron was involved in an infamous incident on 6 September 1976 when Viktor Belenko defected to Japan aboard a Mig-25 Foxbat interceptor, avoiding detection by the scrambled Phantoms, and landing in Hakodate airport, in the south of Hokkaido island. The squadron left Chitose for Naha, Okinawa, on 26 November 1985, prompted by the reformation of 201 Hikotai and the introduction of the F-15J.

Chitose is also home to the Special Airlift Group, or 701 Hikotai.
Two Boeing 747-400 were delivered in 1991 for use by the Emperor of Japan, the Prime Minister and other high-ranking officials on official business trips.
They were replaced by two Boeing 777-300ER in 2019.

Last but not least, Chitose is home to a detachment of the Japan Coast Guard whose 1st region is Headquartered in Otaru, Hokkaido.
The first aircraft flown by the service out of Chitose were Beech Model 18 in January 1968.

 
Chitose Air Base today :

JASDF

2 Kokudan :

- 201 Hikotai : Mitsubishi F-15J/DJ Eagle / Kawasaki T-4
- 203 Hikotai : Mitsubishi F-15J/DJ Eagle / Kawasaki T-4

Special Airlift Group :

- 701 Hikotai : Boeing 777-300ER

Air Rescue Wing :

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

Japan Coast Guard

- Beech 350 King Air, Bombardier DHC-8MPA, Cessna 172

 
Mitsubishi F-15DJ  02-8071 (c/n 021) 201 Hikotai
(Philippe Decockę)
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Mitsubishi F-15DJ  82-8092 (c/n 042) 203 Hikotai
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Mitsubishi F-15DJ 82-8092 (c/n 042) ready to depart for another mission but with an empty back seat this time
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Mitsubishi F-15J  02-8921 (c/n 121) 201 Hikotai
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Underside view
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Note the structure of the airbrake
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Mitsubishi F-15J  92-8908 (c/n 108) 201 Hikotai
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Mitsubishi F-15J  42-8832 (c/n 032) 201 Hikotai
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Mitsubishi F-15J 02-8921 (c/n 121) about to land
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A quartet of 201 Hikotai birds at the "last chance" area
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A quartet of 203 Hikotai birds at the "last chance" area
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Mitsubishi F-15J  72-8886 (c/n 086) 203 Hikotai
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Mitsubishi F-15J  72-8892 (c/n 092) 203 Hikotai
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Mitsubishi F-15J  72-8880 (c/n 080) 203 Hikotai
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Mitsubishi F-15J  52-8848 (c/n 048) 203 Hikotai
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Mitsubishi F-15J  72-8894 (c/n 094) 203 Hikotai
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Mitsubishi F-15J  22-8807 (c/n 576/007) 203 Hikotai
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(Philippe Decockę) Mitsubishi F-15J  22-8814 (c/n 014) 203 Hikotai
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New Chitose Airport, you know where you are!
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Mitsubishi F-15J  42-8839 (c/n 039) 203 Hikotai taking off in front of the technicians
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Late autumn provides nice colors as background
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Mitsubishi F-15J 42-8839 burning some rubber at touchdown
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Mitsubishi F-15J  72-8881 (c/n 576/007) 203 Hikotai
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Note the clean inside part of the airbrake and the ALQ-131 ECM pod on the centerline pylon
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Mitsubishi F-15J 22-8807 (c/n 576/007) performing the last checks before departure
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Mitsubishi F-15J 72-8880 (c/n 080) taking off in full afterburner
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Mitsubishi F-15J 72-8880 landing with a beautiful late afternoon light
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Mitsubishi F-15J 72-8892 and 72-8886 landing during the golden hour
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Mitsubishi F-15J 72-8894 (c/n 094) on final
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Mitsubishi F-15J 22-8807 on final right after sunset
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A quartet of 203 Hikotai birds at the "last chance" area late in the afternoon
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Boeing B777-3SB(ER)  80-1111 (c/n 62439/1422) 701 Hikotai
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Boeing B777-3SB(ER)  80-1112 (c/n 62440/1464) 701 Hikotai
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Hawker Beechcraft U-125A  39-3042 (c/n 258227) Hiko Tenkentai from Iruma Airbase
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De Havilland Canada DHC-8-315 code MA724  JA724A (c/n 669) Coast Guard 1st Region
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Kawasaki C-1  78-1025 (c/n 8025) 402 Hikotai from Iruma Airbase
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