Report by : Thierry Letellier
After a five years time ; i decided to return to the southwest suburbs of Tokyo to make a visit to this very intresting Naval Air Station. NAF Atsugi houses both American and Japan Maritime Self Defense Force (JMSDF) units and has a mission to provide facilities, services, and material support for US Navy and Marine Corps aviation operations, as well as to provide logistic support for Carrier Air Wing Five.
Atsugi’s secret past includes being a CIA U-2 Base which housed the U-2 flown by Gary Powers over Russia during the Cold War. With the closing of NAS Cubi Point in the Philippines in 1991 and NAS Agana on Guam in 1995, NAF Atsugi became the primary base for support of naval aviation in the Western Pacific. It is conveniently located within an hour of numerous other US military bases, including Camp Fuji, and Yokota Air Base, a hub for military flights throughout the Western Pacific. . NAF Atsugi’s strategic importance continues to grow, providing the finest facilities, maintenance and logistic services and support to those at the “Tip of the Sword”.
In March 2012,VAQ-136 GAUNTLETS was replaced by VAQ-141 SHADOWHAWKS , equipped with the EA-18G Growler. Thus, CVW-5 became the first U.S. Navy carrier air wing flying only variants of the F/A18 Super Hornet as strike aircraft. In 2013, the wing’s helicopter squadrons were replaced. TheMH-60S Seahawk equipped HSC12 GOLDEN FALCONS replaced HS-14, and HSL-51was replaced byHMS-77 SABERHAWKS,flying the MH-60R Seahawk.
On 14 January 2014, the U.S. Navy announced that the USS Ronald Reagan (CVN-76) will replace the USS George Washington (CVN-73) as the flagship of Carrier Strike Group Five. The George Washington is scheduled to undergo its mid-life complex refueling and overhaul at Newport News Shipbuilding in Newport News, Virginia. Carrier Air Wing Five will continue to be assigned to Carrier Strike Group Five. As USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72) is scheduled to finish her RCOH in November 2016, this change will probably not take place until 2017.
One more time i was fully satisfied by this very interesting Naval Air Station. As always the variety of traffic , some nice weather and the informations from the local spotters made this time a very good souvenir !