Formed on 17 December 1981, the Hikou kaihatsu jikkendan (Tactical Fighter Training Group) is the Japan Air Self-Defense Force’s dedicated aggressor squadron. Flying Mitsubishi-built T-2 trainers at first, they upgraded to domestically-made F-15DJs in 1990. Like American OPFOR squadrons, they wear a mix of dissimilar schemes meant to mimic Warsaw Pact/NorK/PLAAF warplanes.
Of course, the JASDF has lots of interaction with the real deal on a regular basis, scrambling alert aircraft to intercept Soviet err, Russian Bears as well as dealing with increasingly heavy Chicom traffic in recent years.
Based at Komatsu Air Base– a former IJN seaplane base with easy access to a large training airspace over the Sea of Japan– the aggressor group is winding up for their 40th-anniversary celebration next month.
The problem is, how do you run a special livery in a squadron full of special liveries? The answer: 40th-anniversary drop tanks!
The Japan Air Self-Defense Force phased out their combat-duty F-4EJ Phantoms when the Samurais of Tactical Fighter Squadron Hitokai 301 took off their “Phantoms Phorever” patches last November. Now, the JASDF has retired the type for good when last week– on St. Patrick’s Day– the last three F-4EJs of the country’s Air Development and Test Wing quietly completed their final sortie.
“The pride and spirit of protecting Japan’s sky for about half a century will surely be passed on to the next generation with the dawn of a new era,” notes the JASDF as the force transitions to the F-35A.
The type made it 49 years with Japan but is still flown across the Tsushima Straits in South Korea not to mention by the Hellenic, Turkish and Iranian air forces.
Japan Air Self Defense Force is one of the last top-tier air force flying the Vietnam-era F-4 Phantom II with the Samurais of Tactical Fighter Squadron Hitokai 301 retiring their birds over the weekend, as the force transitions to the F-35A.
The squadron was the first JASDF unit to field the Phantom, on 1 August 1972, making it fitting that they are the last to operate them– although it should be stressed that the Japanese still have a few F-4s put back for testing and training missions.
Notably, the JASDF has given several of these F-4EJ “Phinal Phantoms” special paint schemes to commemorate the type’s impressive 48 years of service.
Of note, the Iranians, Greeks, South Koreans, and Turks still fly a total of about 150~ F-4s while the U.S. withdrew their last operational unit, the Marine Reservists of VMFA-321, in 1992 and expended their last QF-4 drone in 2016.