report by: Thierry Letellier
TSUIKI Air Base was originally built in the northeast part of Fukuoka Prefecture; by the Imperial Japanese Army Air Force during World War II. The airfield was attacked by USAAF Fifth Air Force B-24 Liberator and A-26 Invader bombers on 7 August 1945, largely destroying the base and incapacitating the airfield for operational use. The old IJAAF airfield was pressed into use during the early days of the Korean War, when the United States Air Force 8th Fighter Group moved F-51 Mustangs to Tsuiki in mid-August 1950 for operations over the South Korean Pusan Perimeter. After the complete transfert to Suwan AB ( K-1)
Tsuiki Air Base became a second-line USAF facility for the remainder of the Korean War, hosting several weather squadrons, with the 6169th Air Base Squadron being the main host support unit, and supervising construction of new runways and support buildings. After the combat in Korea ended in 1953, it remained a reserve base until being returned to Japanese control in June 1957.
It was not the case during my visit but, Aviation Training Relocation exercises offered an opportunity for U.S. and Japanese forces to increase operational readiness and bilateral interoperability. For a select few Airmen, the ATR offered a chance to learn first-hand how the other nation’s service operates. U.S. Air Force crewchiefs and fuels specialists worked side by side with their Japan Air Self-Defense Force counterparts as a part of a cross-familiarization program. An ATR at Tsuiki Air was held earlier last year . USAF and JASDF increased operational readiness and bilateral interoperability.
Nowadays , Tsuiki Air Base still serves as an active base for the Japan Air Self Defense Force. The base has 1,600 personnel and a fleet of F-2 and F-15 Fighters and T-4 Trainers. With 304 Hikotai flying the F-15J and F-15DJ and the 6 Hikotai equipped with the Mitsubishi F-2A and F-2B the chance was high for a good level of activity. the flying at Tsuiki is usually mainly focused around the locally based F-2 and F-15 jet aircraft of 6 and 304 Hikotai.
They fly a big mixed formation of four F-2 and four F-15 to show their co-existence at the base, which will however change in the near future: with the F-35 joining the JASDF at Misawa, one F-2 from this airbase will move to Tsuiki, and the F-15 Eagles of 304 Hikotai will move to Naha, making Tsuiki a F-2-only airbasAir-ground demonstration of four F-2.
I was fully satisfied with my trip to JASDF Tsuiki , where spotting is a real pleasure with many people present having the same Military Aviation Interest. Many perfect different places were tested but most of my time was spent in the world famous quay. It was indeed an unforgettable experience.