Japanese Self-Defence Force plans a major overhaul
Warplanes bearing the bright red Rising Sun logo roared overhead yesterday as Japan held a once-every-three-years display to showcase one of the best air forces in Asia. The only problem — most of its fighters were grounded.
Underscoring Japan's uphill battle in an increasingly heated race to control the skies over Asia, the air review came just a week after the country's entire F-15 fleet was ordered into its hangars for safety checks following a midair accident, the second such order in three months.
But in an effort to counterbalance big strides by China and Russia towards deploying new stealthy aircraft, Japan's Air Self-Defence Forces (JASDF) are about to get a multibillion dollar overhaul.
For yesterday's review, the F-15s — the workhorse of Japan's air defences — were relegated to ground displays, either parked on the runway or allowed to taxi but not take off. Last weekend, an empty fuel tank burst and detached from an F-15 on a training flight, causing the grounding order. In July, an F-15 flying out of Okinawa crashed into the ocean. The pilot is listed as missing and presumed dead.
The accidents reinforced what military planners already knew: Japan's ageing air force has seen better days. But after years of delays and budget battles, Japan is expected to announce by the end of December a new fighter deal that will likely shape Asian air security for decades to come. "The JASDF is on the edge of becoming a major tool of power projection," said Michael Auslin, a Japan security expert with the American Enterprise Institute think-tank.
Source: Hyakuri Air Base - 17 October 2011 - gulfnews.com - AP
Photo: Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda (bottom L) inspects troops during a review ceremony at the Japanese Self-Defense Force's Hyakuri air base at Omitama in Ibaraki prefecture on October 16, 2011. The ceremony, which is held every three years and not open to the public, comes one week after a fuel tank and other parts dropped from a Japanese F-15 fighter jet landing close to a residential area. (Image Credit: AFP