Last of the Phantoms

Sometimes an email will pop into your mailbox and set forth a series of events that sees you travelling halfway around the globe. Thats how I came to end up in Japan in the middle of February.

The prospect of a short trip with COAP to Hyakuri to see the Iconic jet in JASDF service before they all retire later this year was too much to resist, so all my brownie points were cashed in with she who must be obeyed and off to Hyakuri, via Paris, I scuttled.

The main COAP group were still in Okinawa when I arrived at Narita on the Tuesday morning. Taking advantage of the showering facilities at the airport I made my mind up to pop into Tokyo, which was mindblowing (and not for this blog). Later that evening we all met up and made our way to Mito.

As ever the taskmaster Comber had us up at the crack of dawn. The weather was rather on the cold side, with a wind chill of about -10c.

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It had already been made clear that 302 Squadron would be the first to stand down, with two F4-EJ KAi’s being painted in a special livery. Sadly we ony got to see the white jet being towed out, at least we saw it!

302 Sq Special Scheme

Our viewing point was the unique Hyakuri Peace Towers, an aviation enthusiasts dream being so close to the taxiway and in the middle of the airfield, as you can see below. That tall metal scaffolding, well I managed to climb up to the level beneath the top, though I was too much of a coward to stand up there, but that didnt deter Rich Cooper and the Comber boys!

On top of the tower
It was a bit wobbly

A total of three days was spent in around the base, sadly the weather was pretty grey on two of the three days. In fact it did snow for a while on the Friday. Thanfully Mr Umizawa (the owner) made sure we had a nice raging fire to keep us warm!

As I write this 302 Squadron have stood down with 301 soon to follow then the 501st Tactical Rec Sqdn will follow at the end of the year bringing Japanese Phantom activity to a close. Rumour is that the JASDF will move Kawasaki F2’s to Hyakuri and reform 301 and 302 elsewhere with F-35’s. It was apparent how clearly they took security as when a civil jet from China landed, the Barn doors would all be closed up – I can’t see them keeping the Dave’s on show for the chinese.

Taxying back

Below are a selection of photos – yes I took a lot – from this magnificent base. Not all Phantoms, we were lucky to see quite a few movements. If you get an email with an offer of a trip, don’t think twice – GO! Thanks as ever to Rich and Steve for taking us on a fantastic trip and all the other guys for such a great laugh.

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