Tag Archives: jasdf

At Last, a Japanese Pegasus Airborne

Japan is one of the few countries to order the KC-46 Pegasus tankers for its Air Force.  Their initial four jets have been coming through the production line at Everett and I had seen the occasional one when it was on the ground being prepared.  However, I had never seen one fly.  I finally broke that duck a while back.  I was at Everett not only for the departure but the return of a Japanese jet.  I thought I was going to miss it taking off because it was lined up when I was getting close to the airfield.

Fortunately, it was doing a high-speed taxi first and then backtracked for the real departure by which time I had arrived.  The return was a lot more relaxed from my point of view and I was pleased to finally get one airborne.  I doubt I shall have many opportunities to see them once they are delivered.

First JASDF KC-46 Pegasus

The Japanese (JASDF) were a customer for the tanker version of the Boeing 767 when Boeing was offering it in the early days.  Japan and Italy were the only customers that I am aware of for that aircraft.  Therefore, it was not a massive surprise that Japan ordered the KC-46 when Boeing developed it for the USAF.  The first aircraft is now being completed and has been parked on the ramp up at Everett recently.  Here it is undergoing some testing.  Hopefully we shall get to see it flying soon.

U-125 Out and Back

The BAe125 (and all of the successor names) was a dominant biz jet for many years.  It also found a few roles in military operations from transport, through trainer, to flight calibration and reconnaissance.  The JASDF was one such operator with the aircraft designated U-125 in Japanese service.  Hyakuri is home to a detachment and one of the jets flew during my visit.  It taxied out and headed off on its mission.

Returning later on it was stopped in time to make the taxiway not far passed my location.  The aircraft has a fairing underneath the fuselage for the search radar.  The operator sits in the fuselage just above this location.  They are also provided with a huge observation window for observing what is going on outside.  Must be a good spot for taking pictures!  I’m not jealous…

Friendly Crews

The taxiway at Hyakuri jinks around the shrine and consequently the towers we were on.  This is probably an inconvenience the crews but this didn’t stop them from being friendly.  The kids on the tower next to me waved at the crews and always got a wave back.  I joined in too and waved whether the kids were there or not.  I don’t think I ever failed to get a response!

A Loaded Black Hawk

The UH-60 Black Hawk is a pretty neat helicopter but in the standard fit, it is not terribly exciting.  However, I do like it when they are kitted up with a lot more stuff.  The external stores support system makes them look very purposeful and a flight refueling probe is another good addition.  The UH-60JA at Hyakuri had both with tanks fitted to the pylons.  It was at the far end of the ramp so, when it took off, I couldn’t get anything worthwhile.

It returned later in the day and came almost directly overhead.  Shooting a dark blue/gray helicopter looking straight up on a cloudy day is not a great combination but you aren’t going to ignore it.  I wish it had flown a few patterns or even taxied by, but I guess it was not to be.  Still, it was good to see it up close.

Hyakuri Pano

Any visit to a base includes time when nothing much is going on.  This can be time to take a break, have a snack, text someone an update on how things are going or even nap.  Or, you can take panoramas.  In the morning the light on the ramp was not ideal.  It improved later in the day.  Even so, you never know how much stuff is going to be out at any one time so shoot while you can.  You can always delete later.  Here is a zoomable and pannable pano from Hyakuri.

F-4 Bi-Plane

These Phantoms were taxiing towards me from the ramp and they headed out to depart.  As the came along the taxiway, I got a moment as they started to merge from my position and, briefly, there was a moment when one was hidden behind the other with the exception of the wings.  For that second I had a Phantom bi-plane in front of me before the effect was gone.  I consider this the rare Phantom II/IV!

Recce Jets and Pretty Colors

Japanese jets have a reputation for interesting colors and, while the fighter units were pretty dull gray, the recce jets were far more interesting.  Most of the flying jets I saw were in the blue camo scheme and they look very nice.  One the first wave I saw, there was also a jet in green and brown camo.  Sadly it only flew once and I messed up a bunch of my shots.  The other scheme on the ramp was a green and grey scheme that looked a lot like the old German colors.  Sadly, it stayed on the ramp the entire time I was there.

Phantastic Phun

I was able to have a day out while in Japan after the work was done and the meetings were complete.  I have seen plenty of pictures from Hyakuri and I was keen to get there.  Mark had kindly brought me up to date with the latest arrangements for visiting, a rental car was booked and I was all set.  Starting out from the center of Tokyo on a Monday morning was surprisingly straightforward and I was soon cruising through the countryside heading to Ibaraki Prefecture.

The weather was a bit overcast.  After days of heat and sun, this was a bit of a surprise but it actually worked a bit in my favor.  I didn’t have a ladder so switching sides in the afternoon was not going to be too simple.  With the clouds, there was far less need to move.  However, that was an issue for later.  I drove up and, as I got close, I had a Phantom pass over me as it was on final approach.  A promising sign.

I got to the towers and got myself settled in.  There was plenty of action on the ramp of the recce unit.  Soon a couple of jets spooled up and taxied.  The came right by me.  I was shooting away but there seemed to be a bit of a focus issue.  Repressing the AF button brought things back into focus so I kept shooting.  Only after they took off did I realize that I had somehow switched to One Shot focus mode.  Crap.  No doubt most of the take off shots would be out of focus – they were.  However, problem fixed and then things were performing as intended.

What followed was a day of Phantom fun.  Recce and fighter jets went up in regular waves.  They taxied right by and then took off in front of us.  What a great way to spend a day.  The recce jets would do a straight in approach and landing.  Some of the fighter guys were more happy to bash the pattern for a while when returning which added to the fun.

As the afternoon wore on, there was a hint of sun showing through the clouds.  Backlight was becoming a bit of an issue but at this point I was staying put until I called it a day.  I had the drive back to the city to deal with, rush hour was beckoning and I needed to get the rental car back.  I made the most of what was on offer before packing up for the day.  The whole trip was so worthwhile.  Plenty have been so it was nothing original but it was pure fun.  There were also other types flying and they will get their own posts.