report by: Ian Moy
The Japan Air Self Defence Force (JASDF) Naha Air Base (那覇基地 Naha Kichi) is located at Naha Airport on the Western side of the island of Okinawa, five kilometres from Naha city. The original Naha Airfield was constructed in 1933. In 1936 control of the air base was transferred to the Japanese Ministry of Communications and formally renamed Naha Airfield. In 1942 control of the air base again reverted to the IJN, which reverted the name of the installation to Oroku Naval Air Base. After World War II was a United States Airforce base until 1971. The JASDF officially assumed control of the military side of Naha airport in 1979. Joint military and civilian operations commenced at Naha Airport in 1954. Currently, construction is underway for a new parallel runway on reclaimed land at Naha Airport.
Current Japanese Self Defence Force units based at Naha Air Base are:
Japan Air Self Defence Force ( JASDF )
South West Air Defence Force / SW HQ Support Flight T-4
204th Tactical Fighter Squadron [204 Hikotai ] : F-15J / DJ and Kawasaki T-4
304th Tactical Fighter Squadron [304 Hikotai ] : F-15J / DJ and Kawasaki T-4
603rd AWACS Squadron [603 Hikotai ] : E-2C
The Mitsubishi F-15J/DJ Eagle is a twin-engine, all-weather air superiority fighter based on the McDonnell Douglas F-15 Eagle in use by the Japan Air Self-Defense Force (JASDF). The F-15J was produced under license by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries. The subsequent F-15DJ and F-15J Kai variants were also produced. Japan is the largest customer of the F-15 Eagle outside the United States. In addition to combat, F-15DJ roles include training. The F-15J Kai is a modernized version of the F-15J.
The 304th Tactical Fighter Squadron (第304飛行隊 (dai-sann-byaku-yon-hikoutai)) is a squadron of the 9th Air Wing of the Japan Air Self-Defense Force. It is based at Naha Air Base, in Okinawa Prefecture, Japan. It is equipped with Mitsubishi F-15J/DJ and Kawasaki T-4 aircraft. The squadron was founded on August 1, 1977 at Tsuiki Air Base in Fukuoka Prefecture flying the McDonnell Douglas F-4EJ. In January 2016 the squadron relocated to Naha Air Base in Okinawa Prefecture as part of the newly formed 9th Air Wing. The 204th Tactical Fighter Squadron (第204飛行隊 (dai-no-byaku-yon-hikoutai)) is a squadron of the 9th Air Wing of the Japan Air Self-Defense Force. It is based at Naha Air Base, in Okinawa Prefecture, Japan. It is equipped with Mitsubishi F-15J/DJ and Kawasaki T-4 aircraft. The squadron was founded as part of the 5th Air Wing on December 1, 1964 at Nyutabaru Air Base as an Lockheed F-104J/DJ squadron. It began as a conversion squadron. In 1985 it upgraded to the F-15J/DJ and became part of the 7th Air Wing at Hyakuri Air Base in Ibaraki Prefecture. It was partly responsible for the air defense of Tokyo. This move prompted the 301st Tactical Fighter Squadron to move to Nyutabaru as a replacement.In 2009 the squadron moved from Hyakuri to Naha Air Base in Okinawa Prefecture, swapping with the F-4EJ equipped 302nd Tactical Fighter Squadron which moved to Hyakuri. The 204th became the southern-most of the JASDF’s F-15 Eagle squadrons.
The 第601飛行隊 (601st Squadron dai601hikoutai) is a squadron of the Airborne Early Warning Surveillance Group of the Japan Air Self-Defense Force (JASDF) based at Misawa Air Base in Aomori Prefecture, Japan. It is equipped with Northrop Grumman E-2C Hawkeye aircraft. The Japan Air Self-Defense Force bought thirteen E-2C aircraft to improve its early warning capabilities. The E-2C was put into service with the Airborne Early Warning Group (AEWG) at Misawa Air Base in January 1987.Beginning in 2012 E-2C aircraft of the squadron began deploying to Naha Air Base as required, and in 2014 603rd Squadron was officially formed by taking around 130 personnel and four of the squadron’s 13 E-2C aircraft from Misawa Air Base in Aomori Prefecture.
Helicopter Airlift Squadron:
Naha Herikoputa Kuuyutai : CH-47J
Naha Kyunantai : UH-60J U-125A
Japan Maritime Self Defence Force (JMSDF)
5th Air Fleet Squadron [5 Kokutai ] : P-3C
Japan Ground Self Defence (JGSDF)
15th Helicopter Squadron [15 Herikoputatai ] : UH-60JA and CH-47JA + LR-2
Each December Naha Air Base opens its doors to the public with the “Naha Air Festa”. In 2017 the Air Festa was held Saturday 9th and Sunday 10th of December, with warm, sunny weather on both days. The aircraft static display consisted of mainly locally based Japanese Self Defence Force aircraft, with additional aircraft from other JASDF bases, the Japanese Coast Guard and commercial airlines. Naha airport’s commercial operations continue as normal throughout the Air Festa, thus the flying display component of the Air Festa is limited to simple fly-bys by several formations of JASDF aircraft, in between the scheduled airline movements. The flying display program was slightly different on both days of the Air Festa. The JASDF Aerobatic Team – “Blue Impulse” was absent from the Air Festa this year, having last appeared at Naha in 2016. When the Blue Impulse do display at the Naha Air Festa, airspace restrictions limit their display to a ‘flat’ show, without any vertical manoeuvres. On the Saturday, the Air Festa display remained open till 7pm, affording the public the opportunity to witness night flight operations of F-15s.