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Tsuiki Air Show 2017 - JASDF Air Festa
Where? Tsuiki Airbase, Kyushu, Japan
When? November 2017

Tsuiki Airbase on the Southern Japanese island of Kyushu hosts nowadays two Squadrons of the Mitsubishi F-2 jet. 6 Hikotai and 8 Hikotai are half of the JASDF Squadrons operating the indigenous, F-16-look-alike fighter, painted in an extraordinary and cool looking blue camouflage. The airshow at the end of October was a good possibility to see the pilots and their jets in action.

JASDF Mitsubishi F-2 Squadrons

With the swapping of Squadrons in recent years the JASDF obviously pursued the goal to reduce the mix of aircraft types at their bases and to clearly concentrate and strengthen its air superiority fighters in the North and South to counter airspace violations. China respectively Russia take care that they happen regularly happen in these regions and JASDF QRA jets are sent up to identify these aircraft.

Following this Squadron shuffling 304 Hikotai flying the F-15(D)J Eagle moved to Nyutabaru and was followed by the “Black Panthers” 8 Hikotai from Misawa, which in 2008 converted from the F-4EJ Phantom II to the F-2. The nicknamed “Viper Zero” is a 4.5th generation multirole fighter used in the air-air as well as in the air-ground role, with a focus on anti-ship operations using the ASM-1 and ASM-2 air-sea missiles.

6 Hikotai and 8 Hikotai Flying Displays

The multitude of missions was well represented during the airshows flying display. First of all the opening formation of six F-2s was an impressive sight. Both Squadrons contributed three jets for this formation, with the 6 Hikotai aircraft clearly standing out by their yellow Squadron patch containing the sword and arrow compared to the 8 Hikotai’s less visible Black Panther.

During the day 6 Hikotai performed the air-ground attack using four jets, whereas two pilots of 8 Hikotai were responsible for the ‘maneuvering flight’, showcasing the F-2s flight performance. Of course some of these display were suited to give the crowd a nice view of the aircraft, especially when the jets turned tightly around the apron, trailing nice vortices and showing cool condensation above their wings when “pulling the g’s”.

Unfortunately, as you might have already noticed by the photos, the sky remained in an unfavorable grey throughout the day. Whereas autumn can give a great light all around Japan, weather around that time can also be difficult in that part of the country. And this was clearly the case during the airshow day.

JGSDF AH-64 Apache and JASDF F-15 Eagle Flying Display

With the grey sky the colourscheme of the JGSDF AH-64 Apache also literally drowned and became dark gray, the same goes for the 304 Hikotai F-15J Eagle, that came over from nearby Nyutabaru for a short flying demonstration. It even was the aircraft painted in the current special scheme to celebrate the Sqaudrons anniversary, but it was barely visible under these conditions.

JASDF Blue Impulse Display Team

Due to the weather I cut the show shot and left before the flying display of the JASDF’s aerobatic team Blue Impulse and only watched them from the outside. With the massive crowed on the apron it was better to leave early in order to avoid that most likely traffic jam when everybody wants to leave around the same time. Queuing was already the order of the day and could be observed during lunchtime when looking at the food stalls and mobile toilets!

Don't blame the weatherman...

It was a big shame for the weather, as the flying display would have provided some fine photo opportunities and the static display was also rather nice collection of JGSDF, JMSDF and JASDF aircraft with an F-15J, C-130 Hercules, P-3C Orion and especially the rare visit of a KC-767 tanker aircraft.

Maybe next time the sun will shine on the Tsuiki airshow again, the sunny shots presented in this report have been taken on the Saturday morning, when a smaller event for the base personal’s families was held. Standing on the fence that day really payed off!

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