Yokota Air Base

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Yokota Air Base
横田飛行場
Yokota Hikōjō
Pacific Air Forces.png
Part of Pacific Air Forces (PACAF)
Located near: Fussa, Tokyo, Japan
Yokota Air Base - Control Tower - 2011.jpg
The air traffic control tower at Yokota Air Base
Coordinates 35°44′55″N 139°20′55″E / 35.74861°N 139.34861°E / 35.74861; 139.34861 (Yokota AB)
Site information
Controlled by  United States Air Force
Site history
Built 1940
In use 1940-Present
Garrison information
Garrison 374th Airlift Wing.jpg
374th Airlift Wing (USAF)
Yokota Air Base
IATA: OKOICAO: RJTY
Summary
Elevation AMSL 463 ft / 141 m
Coordinates 35°44′55″N 139°20′55″E / 35.74861°N 139.34861°E / 35.74861; 139.34861Coordinates: 35°44′55″N 139°20′55″E / 35.74861°N 139.34861°E / 35.74861; 139.34861
Website www.yokota.af.mil
Map
RJTY is located in Japan
RJTY
RJTY
Location of Yokota Air Base
Runways
Direction Length Surface
m ft
18/36 3,353 11,001 Concrete
Source: Japanese AIP at AIS Japan[1]
A C-130H Hercules taxis to park on the east side of the flightline at Yokota Air Base, Japan, March 25, 2011.

Yokota Air Base (横田飛行場 Yokota Hikōjō?), (IATA: OKOICAO: RJTY) is a United States Air Force base in the city of Fussa, one of 26 cities in the Tama Area, or Western Tokyo.

The base houses 14,000 personnel. The base occupies a total area of 136,413 m2 (1,468,340 sq ft) and has a 3,353 m × 61 m (11,001 ft × 200 ft) runway. Among its facilities are the broadcast center for the American Forces Network Tokyo radio service and a detachment of Pacific Air Forces' Band of the Pacific and the headquarters of United States Forces Japan.

Units[edit]

The host unit at Yokota is the 374th Airlift Wing and is currently used for airlift missions throughout East Asia. The 374th includes four groups: operations, mission support, maintenance and medical. Each group manages a various number of squadrons in order to carry out the wing's mission.

It is not uncommon to see a KC-135 Stratotanker, C-5, KC-10 Extender, DC-8, C-17, L-100, civilian charter airline aircraft (Omni International, North American Airlines, World Airways, Ryan International, etc.) and cargo 747s on the Transient Aircraft ramp.

  • 374th Maintenance Group
    The 374th Maintenance Group maintains C-130H1, C-12 and UH-1N aircraft supporting intratheater airlift and distinguished visitor transport for Pacific Air Forces.
  • 374th Mission Support Group
    The 374th Mission Support Group is responsible to the 374th Airlift Wing Commander for command, control and direction of support activities to 374 AW and 32 tenant units to include HQ US Forces Japan and Fifth Air Force.
  • 374th Medical Group
    The 374th Medical Group, ensures medical readiness of 374 AW, 5 AF, and US Forces Japan personnel. They also maintain 64 War Reserve Materiel projects, including the USAF's largest Patient Movement Item inventory.
  • Associate/Tenant Units
  • Yokota Cadet Squadron, Civil Air Patrol
    The Civil Air Patrol's Yokota Cadet Squadron conducts operations at Yokota Air Base.

AMC passenger terminal[edit]

Friendship Festival - Local Japanese entering a C-130

The newly renovated Air Mobility Command (AMC) Passenger Terminal is on the main part of the base next to the flightline. It is a 5- to 7-minute walk from the Kanto Lodge (see below) and offers Space-Available flights to various destinations in PACAF such as Alaska, Guam, Hawaii, Korea, Okinawa, Singapore, as well as the Contiguous United States.

History[edit]

The facility which houses Yokota Air Base was originally constructed by the Imperial Japanese Army in 1940 as Tama Airfield, and used as a flight test center. During World War II Yokota became the center of Japanese Army Air Forces flight test activities and the base was the site of the first meeting between Japanese and Italian wartime allies.

Tama was first identified by United States military forces in November 1944 by a 3d Reconnaissance Squadron F-13 Superfortress photo-reconnaissance aircraft, flying from Tinian in the Marianas. It was identified as being associated with a nearby Musashino-Nakajima aircraft manufacturing plant. Along with the Showa Air Base to the northwest, and Tachikawa Air Base to the east, it was compared to the aircraft development complex of the USAAF Wright-Paterson Field in Ohio. According to the USAAF intelligence at the time, the three bases conducted all IJA flight testing. In the spring of 1945, XXI Bomber Command attacked the base eight times along with the aircraft manufacturing plant, but each time heavy clouds forced the bombers to attack secondary targets. The Nakajima plant was finally attacked in April 1945, but the Tama airfield never was bombed.

Postwar years[edit]

With the end of hostilities and the Japanese surrender in September 1945, a detachment of the United States Army 1st Cavalry Division arrived at the base on 4 September. The airfield's buildings were largely intact, and some 280 of the IJA's most modern aircraft were discovered in hangars. The 1st Cav named the facility Fussa Army Airfield, then renamed it Yokota Army Airfield at the end of September.

The initial USAAF use for the base was for airlift operations when the 2d Combat Cargo Group arrived with four C-47 Skytrain squadrons. When the old runway deteriorated under heavy usage, the runway was repaired and Yokota supported operations of the Douglas A-26 Invader-equipped 3d Bombardment Group by August 1946. Additional construction during the 1940s and 1950s was completed and the base reached its current size around 1960.

On the occasion of extension, the course of Hachiko Line and national highway Route 16 was changed, and Itsukaichi highway was divided.

During the initial postwar occupation years, Yokota hosted the following known USAAF/USAF units:

  • 20th Combat Mapping Group (October 1945 - April 1946) (F-7 (B-24) Liberator)
  • 8th Reconnaissance Group (June 1946 - October 1947) (F-7 (B-24) Liberator)
  • 71st Reconnaissance Group (February 1947 - April 1949)
    (RB-17, RB-29, RF-51, RF-61, and RF-80)

These units performed photographic reconnaissance and mapping of Japan and South Korea.

  • 6th Night Fighter Squadron (1946–47) (P-61A/B)
    Inactivated and personnel, mission and equipment transferred to 339th Fighter Squadron (347th Fighter Group) with F-82F/G Twin Mustangs at Nagoya AB Japan.
  • 3d Emergency Rescue Squadron (July 1947 - April 1950) (SB-17G)
    Flew modified B-17G bombers equipped under their bellies with a 27-foot boat (termed the A-1) that could be dropped by parachute and which contained enough food, water, and clothing for twelve survivors to last for about twenty days in the ocean.

Korean War[edit]

During the Korean War, Yokota was used for combat missions over North and South Korea. Known units based there were:

  • Fighter units
  • Bombardment units
    • 325th, 326th, 327th Bombardment Squadrons (92d Bombardment Group) (July - October 1950)
      Deployed squadrons from Spokane AAFld (later, Fairchild AFB), Washington. Flew B-29 Bombing missions over North Korea.
    • 98th Bombardment Wing (343d, 344th, 345th Bomb Squadrons) (August 1950 - July 1954)
      Group, then Wing deployed from Spokane AAFld (later, Fairchild AFB), Washington. Flew B-29 Bombing missions over North Korea. Two after arriving at Yokota, the squadrons a bomb mission against marshalling yards at Pyongyang, North Korea. The 98th BG engaged primarily in interdiction of enemy communications centers but also supported UN ground forces. Interdiction targets included marshalling yards, oil centers, rail facilities, bridges, roads, troop concentrations, airfields, and military installations.
  • Reconnaissance units
    • 31st Strategic Reconnaissance Squadron, Photographic (July–August 1950)
      Flew combat missions to provide FEAF Bomber Command with target and bomb-damage assessment photography.
    • 91st Strategic Reconnaissance Squadron, Medium, Photographic (December 1950 - December 1954)
      Assigned to 407th Strategic Fighter Wing (1953–54) See 91st Intelligence Squadron
      Absorbed the personnel and resources of the 31st Strategic Reconnaissance Squadron in Japan. Using RB-29, RB-45, RB-50 and RB-36 aircraft, it performed target and bomb-damage assessment photo and visual reconnaissance for FEAF Bomber Command, flew other special photographic missions, and conducted electronic "ferret" reconnaissance to determine frequency, location, and other characteristics of enemy ground radar. The squadron also performed shipping surveillance over the Sea of Japan near the Siberian coast and leaflet drops over North Korea. Beginning in late 1952, rotating aircrews of the Philippine-based 581st Air Resupply and Communications Wing augmented the 91st SRS in flying leaflet missions.
    • 512th Bombardment Squadron (January - August 1950)
      Operated the B/RB/WB-29 aircraft and flew weather reconnaissance missions.
    • 56th Weather Reconnaissance Squadron (September 1951 - July 1972)
      Replaced the 512th Bomb Squadron in their weather reconnaissance mission. They operated WB-29, WB-50, WC-135B and RB-57 aircraft used to sample airborne nuclear debris as well as weather patterns in the Pacific.
      • In fact, the 56th was first the 56th Strategic Recon Squadron. It became the 56th WRS later. And, for several years the only aircraft were modified B-29s.

About 1956 the B-29's began to be replaced with B-50's, and the unit continued to fly two missions a day, plus flying into any typhoons in the South Pacific. In 1956 the 56th lost a plane coming back from a mission, as it crashed into a hill not far from the base. All on board were killed.

Cold War[edit]

With the hostilities in Korea ending in 1953, Yokota Air Base returned to a peacetime Cold War status. Two major wings were stationed at the base during the 1950s, the 67th Reconnaissance Wing (1956–60) flying RF-80s, RF-84s and lastly RF-101s. The 35th Fighter-Interceptor Wing (1954–57) flew F-86 Sabres from the base. A Tactical Air Command air refueling unit, the 421st Air Refueling Squadron Flew KB-29s,and later KB-50Js from Yokota from 1953-65. All of these units were under the command of the 41st Air Division.

The 35th TFW was reassigned in 1957 and the 67th TRW in 1960. Worldwide DOD Budget restrictions in the late 1950s caused several PACAF wings based in Japan to be reassigned or inactivated. These tactical fighter units were replaced by the Martin B-57 equipped 3rd Bombardment Wing where it trained in bombardment, reconnaissance and aerial refueling operations. The Air Defense Command 40th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron (December 1961 - May 1962) equipped with the Convair F-102 Delta Dagger stood an air defense mission.

The 6102d Air Base Wing assumed host unit status for the base, being replaced by the 441st Combat Support Group in 1964.

Housing for unaccompanied personnel

The Vietnam War resulted in an increased combat and airlift aircraft presence at the base. Yokota was used for ferrying B-52s to Southeast Asia along with being a base for US-based deployed F-105 Tactical Fighter Squadrons (35th, 36th, 80th). The 610th Military Airlift Support Squadron (1966–78) was created by Military Airlift Command to service the large increase in transiting airlift. The 65th Military Airlift Support Group (1969–71) was a headquarters organization for MAC airlift support squadrons in the Pacific and Far East.

The F-105 squadrons deployed frequently to USAF-operated bases in Thailand to fly combat missions over North and South Vietnam, and to South Korea for alert missions. Initially the fighter squadrons were under the command of the 41st Air Division, shortly after reassigned to the 6441st Tactical Fighter Wing, activated in April 1965 to control the F-105 squadrons after their parent organization, the 8th Tactical Fighter Wing, relocated to George Air Force Base, California, to become a McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II unit. With the reassignment of the 347th Fighter Wing to Yokota in 1968, the 347th assumed responsibility for all tactical fighters until its reassignment to Kunsan AB, South Korea, in March 1971.

In 1971, all combat squadrons were transferred to Kadena and Misawa Air Base and Yokota became a non-flying station hosted by the 475th Air Base Wing. The 475th had no numbered flying squadrons, but operated a few T-39 Saberliners and UH-1 helicopters, along with supporting transient MAC cargo and passenger aircraft. Assigned flying squadrons returned to Yokota in 1975 when the 345th Tactical Airlift Squadron was assigned with its C-130Es.

Headquarters, Fifth Air Force was transferred to Yokota on November 11, 1974, being transferred from Fuchu AS, Japan.

Post-Cold War[edit]

In 2005, the Japanese government announced that the headquarters of the Japan Air Self-Defense Force would be moved to Yokota.

The Tokyo Metropolitan Government has advocated opening Yokota to civilian flights as a method of relieving traffic at Haneda and Narita Airport. Governor Shintaro Ishihara raised the joint-use proposal during the 2003 gubernatorial election, and Governor Naoki Inose made comments in 2013 that suggested joint use as a possible solution to cope with visitor demand during the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo.[3]

Tents used to house U.S. Pacific Command's (USPACOM) Deployable Joint Command and Control (DJC2) system during Operation Tomodachi

In April 2010 Colonel Frank Eppich, the United States Air Force commander of base, banned screenings of the film The Cove at the base theater. A base spokesman said that The Cove was banned because using a base venue to display the film could be seen as an endorsement of the film. The spokesman added, "We have a lot of issues with Japan...and anything done on an American base would be seen as an approval of that event."[4]

Personnel and aircraft from the base assisted with Operation Tomodachi following and during the March 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami and Fukushima I nuclear accidents. The base also served as an important hub for airlifted assistance during the disaster recovery efforts. During the crisis, around 600 American family members voluntarily departed the base for locations outside Japan.[5]

Major commands to which assigned[edit]

  • 1st Cavalry Division, United States Army Forces Pacific, (September 1945)
  • Pacific Air Command US Army, (September 1945 - January 1947)
  • Far East Air Forces (January 1947 - July 1957)
  • Pacific Air Forces (July 1957–present)

Base operating units[edit]

Major USAF units[edit]

A.^ Assigned to 2143rd Air Weather Wing at Andersen AFB, Guam.

Yokota has provided support for fighter, bomber, and military airlift operations, hosting B-26 Invader, B/RB-29 Superfortress, P/F-51 Mustang, KB-50J Aerial Tankers, F-94 Starfire, B/RB-57 Canberra, C-54 Skymaster, F-86D Sabre, F-102 Delta Dagger, McDonnell Douglas F-4D Phantom II, F-100 Super Sabre, F-105 Thunderchief, C-5 Galaxy, C-141 Starlifter, and C-130 Hercules units.

Amenities[edit]

The 374th Force Support Squadron[edit]

The 374th Force Support Squadron is responsible for providing an enhanced quality of life, facilities and programs for 11,000 military, civilian and dependents as well as 150,000 transient personnel per year. The 374th Force Support Squadron provides manpower and personnel support, membership clubs, child development, youth programs, food service, lodging, sports/fitness, recreation/leisure activities, comprehensive readiness program, marketing/publicity, linen exchange, and mortuary operations for Yokota AB.[6]

Friendship Festival[edit]

Friendship Festival - Picture of Flightline

Each year in August, Yokota Air Base opens the gates to the Japanese community for its annual Friendship Festival. For two days, local residents can learn about Yokota Air Base. Food and events are provided for all ages. Roughly 200,000 visitors show up each year, although non-Japanese visitors may be turned away from the gates for security reasons.

For those two days, visitors are able to examine many types of aircraft and even tour some of the large cargo planes from inside.

Education[edit]

The Department of Defense Education Activity operates schools at Yokota for children of personnel assigned to the base. [7]

  • Joan K. Mendel Elementary School (formerly known as Yokota East Elementary School)[8]
  • Yokota West Elementary School[9]
  • Yokota Middle School:[10] School Dedication Ceremony took place on 13 June 2000. YMS initial year began with only grades 7 and 8, with the upstairs specialty wing housing High School classes until construction modifications to YHS were completed. Class officially began August 2000.
  • Yokota High School[11]

Higher educational opportunities for those in the military and working for the Department of Defense, as well as for family members at Yokota are available through several contracted academic institutions. For example:[12]

  • The Asian Division of University of Maryland University College (UMUC)[13]

Tama Hills Recreation Area[edit]

The Tama Hills Recreation Area comprises about one-half of the 500-acre Tama Services Division Annex, the other half being the Tama Hills Golf Course.[14][15][16]


Notable for[edit]

The base was the setting of Almost Transparent Blue, a best-selling novel written by Ryu Murakami and published in 1976 as well as the anime Blood the Last Vampire and the short film "Baby Blue" from Genius Party, directed by Shinichiro Watanabe (Cowboy Bebop, Samurai Champloo). Yokota Air Base and its surrounding area were the central location for the 2006 movie Sugar and Spice (2006 film). It is also the setting of parts of The Yokota Officers Club : A Novel by Sarah Bird. The base is also the birthplace of US Marine Captain, former UFC fighter and Fox Sports analyst Brian Stann.

References[edit]

 This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the Air Force Historical Research Agency. Some of the text in this article was taken from pages on the Yokota Air Base website, which as a work of the U.S. Government is presumed to be a public domain resource. That information was supplemented by:

  • Fletcher, Harry R. (1989) Air Force Bases Volume II, Active Air Force Bases outside the United States of America on 17 September 1982. Maxwell AFB, Alabama: Office of Air Force History. ISBN 0-912799-53-6
  • Maurer, Maurer (1983). Air Force Combat Units Of World War II. Maxwell AFB, Alabama: Office of Air Force History. ISBN 0-89201-092-4.
  • Ravenstein, Charles A. (1984). Air Force Combat Wings Lineage and Honors Histories 1947-1977. Maxwell AFB, Alabama: Office of Air Force History. ISBN 0-912799-12-9.
  • Rogers, Brian (2005). United States Air Force Unit Designations Since 1978. Hinkley, England: Midland Publications. ISBN 1-85780-197-0.

External links[edit]