Japan’s Iruma Air Base Visit, November, 2018


Iruma Air Base is the Air Defense Command Headquarters of the Japan Air Self Defense Force. It is approximately 1 hour’s driving time west, northwest of Tokyo. While in Japan chasing the F-4 Phantoms at Hyakuri Air Base, our group took a side trip to Iruma Air Base for some different photographic opportunities on a sunny and seasonably mild November 30th.

The based aircraft mix are Gulfstream U-4 aircraft, Nihon YS-11 Maritime Patrol and Intelligence aircraft, Kawasaki C-1 cargo aircraft and T-4 jet trainers as well as an EC-1 Electronic aircraft. There is also a rescue wing with U-125 aircraft and CH-47 Helicopters.

Iruma Air Base began as Irumagawa Airfield in 1938 and was a training base for the Imperial Japanese Army Air Force Academy. After World War II, the base was occupied by the United States Air Force and was renamed Johnson Air Force Base. The United States used the base during the occupation years and the Korean War. The Base became joint use when JASDF returned to use it in 1958. In 1963 the USAF turned over ownership of the base to JASDF and ultimately deactivated from that base in 1973.

Iruma has a single runway 17/35 and the morning sun favored the north and east. Since a lot of photographers were in Japan this week, there was a good crowd lining up on step ladders at the fenceline. Most of us set up at the 35 end of the runway for morning taxi operations and moved to the west side as the sun moved. I did take a walk on foot to get on the east side of the runway for a few pictures. There was some moderate activity with some lulls before the base seemed to shut down in the afternoon. It was Friday, after all.

I was happy to take this day trip as I had the opportunity to photograph some of the indigenous aircraft of Japan. One photographer who had been to Japan many times had never seen the EC-1 moving. That was a treat in addition to a colorful U-125 and an arriving Huey helicopter. We did not see a CH-47 or the special red and white painted C-1.

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