5035 9090 166862 2x Hornet TO

18th of January 2011: Our second day in Japan. Our objective: Atsugi Naval Air Station. We got in the car at 06.30 hrs. in the morning. From our hotel in Narita to Atsugi is about a 120 km's drive to the south and would take us through Tokyo and Yokohama (the second largest city in Japan). Our navigation told us that it would be a 2 hours drive. And indeed after a 2 hour drive we where close to our destination. On the way to Atsugi we passed Tokyo-Disney and Haneda Airport where I saw a glimpse of a Saab 340 (At least I think it was a Saab) in a hangar from the Coastguard. But first we had to score our breakfast so we bought some sandwiches and drinks in a local supermarket in the neighbourhood of Atsugi. The prices in Japan are pretty standard European. The weather was excellent (clear blue sky and 8/9 degrees so no heatweaves) and the wind was coming from the north. This meant they where flying from runway 01. Raymond recognised the last few miles to the spottingplace (he was also in the spring of 2009 at Atsugi) so we had no problems in getting there. We parked our car in a parkingspace of a local workshop and walked a few metres for our spot. Immediately upon arrival a local Japanese spotter was trying to tell us something. Suddenly we understood what he meant: a US-1A was getting ready for take off on runway 19 !! This rocked !! But our joyfull moment was shortlived. The US-1 aborted his mission. *%$#@. We positioned ourselves on a bench in the parc where our spot was. A great spot. We could overlook the entire runway, could photograph the aircraft at take off and during landing we had Mount Fuji as background ! There where also quite a few Japanese spotters on the scene but they didn't spoke English at all.

The first aircraft we noted where a bunch of Hornets from all three stationed Hornetsquadrons. All US Navy aircraft stationed at Atsugi are from Carrier Air Wing Five. When not landbased at Atsugi these aircraft are flying from the deck of the only US carrier based outside the United States: CVN-73 USS George Washington. When not patrolling on sea the Washington is docked at Yokosuka (situated in the Kanagawadistrict in the Greater Tokyo area). The USS George Washington is the first nuclear powered ship to be stationed in Japan. Her predecessor was CV-63 USS Kitty Hawk. The three Hornet squadrons attached to CAW-5 are VFA-27 'Royal Maces', VFA-102 'Diamondbacks' and VFA-115 'Eagles'. Carrier Air Wing Five consits furthermore out of VAQ-136 'Gauntlets' flying EA-6B Prowlers, VAW-115 'Liberty Bells' with E-2C Hawkeyes, HS-14 'Chargers' flying the SH-60F/HH-60H Seahawk and VRC-30/Det.5 flying two C-2A Greyhounds. Also a fourth Hornetsquadron is asigned to Carrier Air Wing Five but is transtioning from the F/A-18C (Legacy Hornet) to the F/A-18E Super Hornet. After conversion CAW5 will be the first Carrier Wing totally equiped with Super Hornets. In between the Hornets (also the commander of VF-115 was amongst them, F/A-18E 166859/NF-300) there where also a few Japanese Navy Orions going take off. These Orions are actually P-3C's belonging to either 4 Kokugun (Air Wing)/3 Kokutai (Air Squadron) or 31 Kokugun/51 Kokutai. After those boys three VAQ-136 Prowlers took off. One of which was also a commander: EA-6B 164402/NF-500. The US and Japanese Sea Hawks where all day busy doing their circuits. After a while the first Hornets where landing again. Also a Japanese YS11 and a Coastguard Saab 340 came in. Very nice was also the commander (double nuts) of VAW-115 (E-2C 165817/NF-600). Also one of four build XP-1's took off (serial 5502). The Kawasaki XP-1 is intended to replace the P-3C Orion in the maritime patrol role within the Japanese Navy (Japanese Maritime Self-Defence Force). A very very nice visitor was a US Marines Corps F/A-18D 'Atars' from VMFA(AW)-242 'The Bats' (164653/DT-12). At around noon they changed the runway so we headed for the other side of the airbase. This turned out to be a good thing because the sun wasn't in our backs anymore on the 01-side.

On the other side the sun was in our back again. Also on the 19-side the spottingplace was in a parc. This time even with a toilet and a vending machine where you can buy hot coffee in a can !! On this side the place was packed with Japanese spotters. There where at least 200 of them. Also this spot was (very) good for photographing the planes while they where landing. But no pics could be taken on the runway. At the 01-side we talked with one of the few Japanese spotters who spoke English. A young guy on a bike. Mister Suzuki (no kidding). He showed us his photoalbums. There where some great pics in there. This same guy came to us again on the 19-side to point out that he overheard the scanner that a US-1A was departing Iwakuni for Atsugi ! Now that was great news. Indeed the US-1 showed up. What a sight. Unmistakenly the highlight of the day ! In between there also was a fire going on in the vicinity of Yokohama which drew the attention of a BK-117 from a local newsstation. A very nice visitor was welcomed in the form of a Japanese EC-225 of the army (Japanese Ground Self Defence Force). When you're lucky you can also photograph some Sea Hawks on this side of the base. They usually tend to take a sharp turn too far for a decent shot. At around 16.00 hrs. we hitted the road again for our hotel in Narita. In all we noted 14 local Hornets and one visiting Hornet, three Prowlers, two Hawkeyes, six US Navy Sea Hawks and two Japanese Sea Hawks, one Greyhound, 11 Japanese Orions, a single YS-11, a single Japanese XP-1, a single Costguard Saab 340, a single Japanese EC-225 and a single US-1A. All together 11 (!!) different sorts of aircraft making up a grand total of 45. A great score for just one day.

 

5502 9041 166919 164460

164402 165817 JA954 9151

 

2x SH60 5049 165828 YS11 Mount Fuji