Naval Air Facility Atsugi
|Operator||United States Navy and the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force|
|Location||Kanagawa Prefecture Japan|
|In use||1938-1945, 1950–present|
|Commander||Captain John F. Bushley|
|Elevation AMSL||205 ft / 62 m|
|Website||Naval Air Facility Atsugi Website|
Naval Air Facility Atsugi (厚木海軍飛行場 Atsugi Kaigun-hikōjō?) (IATA: NJA, ICAO: RJTA) is a naval air base located in the cities of Yamato and Ayase in Kanagawa Prefecture, Japan. It is the largest United States Navy (USN) air base in the Pacific Ocean and houses the squadrons of Carrier Air Wing Five (CVW-5), which deploys with the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN-76). Service members stationed at Atsugi also work in conjunction with the Kamiseya Naval Radio Receiving Facility.
CVW-5 shares the base with the Headquarters Fleet Air Force and Fleet Air Wing 4, Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF). NAF Atsugi is also home to Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron 51 (HSM-51), which provides detachments of MH-60R helicopters to forward deployed U.S. Navy guided missile cruisers, guided missile destroyers and frigates homeported at the nearby Yokosuka Naval Base.
The Imperial Japanese Navy constructed the base in 1938 to house the Japanese 302 Naval Aviation Corps, one of Japan's most formidable fighter squadrons during World War II. Aircraft based at Atsugi shot down more than 300 American bombers during the firebombings of 1945. After Japan's surrender, many of Atsugi's pilots refused to follow Hirohito's order to lay down their arms, and took to the skies to drop leaflets on Tokyo and Yokohama urging locals to resist the Americans. Eventually, these pilots gave up and left Atsugi.
General Douglas MacArthur arrived at Atsugi on 30 August to accept Japan's surrender. Shortly afterwards, elements of the USAAF 3d Bombardment Group moved in about 8 September, being replaced by the USAAF 49th Fighter Group on 15 September which handled the initial cleanup of the heavily-damaged airfield along with the 1539th Army Air Forces Base Unit to provide station facilities. Minimal flight operations were restored by October which allowed the P-61 Black Widow-equipped 418th Night Fighter Squadron to operate from the airfield to provide air defense over the area, along with the P-38 Lightnings of the 49th FG. The 49th moved to Chitose Airfield on Hokkaido in mid February 1946, the 418th NFS to Okinawa in June, and on 31 December 1946 the 1539th AAFBU moved to Haneda Airfield.
During the occupation, the base housed the overflow from nearby Camp Zama; it was not refurbished to handle military air traffic until the Korean War. The Seabees (Navy construction battalions) came to the base in 1950 and prepared it for re-opening that December as Naval Air Station Atsugi.
One of the aircraft based at Atsugi at least since 1957 was the U-2 spy plane. The plane made local Japanese headlines when it ran low on fuel and made an emergency landing at a glider-club landing strip. This same plane was piloted by Gary Powers, which provoked an international incident when it was downed over the Soviet Union.
In 1964 a United States Marine Corps F8U-2 Crusader based at the airfield crashed in nearby Machida, Tokyo. The pilot ejected and was not seriously injured, but the crash killed four and injured 32 people on the ground and destroyed seven houses.
In 1972, the U.S. and Japanese governments agreed to share ownership of the base, after which the Japan Maritime Self Defence Force began operating from there.
On 2 November 1976, a US Navy Grumman C-1 Trader, piloted by Lt. Laury K. Backman, suffered a mechanical failure of the aileron system while maneuvering to land on runway 01, and crashed short of the runway. All six aboard were killed.
In 1977, a McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II based at the facility suffered a mechanical failure and crashed into a residential neighborhood in nearby Yokohama. The crew ejected and survived, but two young boys, aged 1 and 3, were killed and 7 others injured.
In February 9, 1999 a fire broke out at a terminal, no injuries were reported.
On 14 November 2009 a fire in Hangar 183 at the base injured three Japanese employees of Obayashi Corporation. The fire was reported at 11:55 a.m. and was extinguished by 12:45 p.m. The hangar was moderately damaged.
In December 2009, Atsugi was again attacked by leftist extremists via improvised mortar barrages.
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. During the crisis, around 2,000 American family members voluntarily departed the base for locations outside Japan.
In December 2016 police arrested a Kawasaki man for pointing a laser pointer at JMSDF aircraft in July of the same year. It was reported that in 2016 there had been about 30 reports of laser pointers being directed at Japanese and US aircraft.
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Atsugi is named after the nearby city of Atsugi despite not actually being in Atsugi (it is separated from Atsugi by two other cities).
The name was chosen because Atsugi was the only large town in the area as of 1950, and the three farming villages surrounding the base at that time—Yamato Village, Ayase Village and Shibuya Village—shared names with better-known areas elsewhere in Japan. Yamato is an alternative name for the Nara region, Ayase is generally associated with the area around Ayase Station in northeast Tokyo, and Shibuya is generally associated with the ward of Shibuya in central Tokyo.
The Jinkanpo Incinerator
NAF Atsugi and the people stationed there gained notoriety in the 1990s (stemming from near-daily reports in the Pacific Stars and Stripes newspaper) due to their proximity to the Jinkanpo Atsugi Incinerator, which blew toxic and cancerous emissions over the high-rise buildings in its immediate vicinity. The incinerator's owners, arrested and jailed for charges of tax evasion, neglected the maintenance of the facility. The pollution had become so much of a health problem for residents that if they showed signs of adverse health effects, the base allowed them to leave early (usually servicemembers are stationed at the base for a tour of three years). Many servicemembers reported sickness and a few died from cancer shortly after moving back to the United States. For a time, the base required servicemembers to undergo medical screenings before being stationed at the base in order to ensure that their bodies could handle the poor air quality. In spite of this, servicemembers still developed health problems, such as acute cases of asthma.
The US government's Department of Justice sued the incinerator operators. In May 2001, just before the court was to hand down its decision, the Japanese government purchased the plant for nearly 40 million dollars and shut it down. Dismantling was completed by the end of that year.
Since 1976 there have been a number of lawsuits with local residents sued the Japanese government over noise from the base, and in October 2002 the Yokohama district court ruled that the government should pay 2.75 billion yen in compensation. Both the plaintiffs and the government appealed the case and in July 2006 the Tokyo High Court ordered the government to pay 4.04 billion yen to 4,865 people living near the base.
The fourth lawsuit over noise was filed in 2007 in the Yokohama District Court. In May 2014 the court ruled that the SDF should not operate its aircraft between 10pm to 6am and that the government should pay ¥7 billion yen in damages. It was the first lawsuit to request the grounding of US military aircraft. This request was rejected by the court.
The ruling was appealed, and in its July 2015 ruling the Tokyo High Court gave ¥9.4 billion to around 6,900 residents from eight cities, increasing the payout from the ¥7 billion yen ordered by the Yokohama district court. The Tokyo court also rejected calls to forbid night flights by US aircraft, arguing that the Japan-US security treaty is beyond the government's jurisdiction. In this it was following a Supreme Court ruling on the 1976 case, where the court ruled that the Japanese government has no power to regulate the activities of US forces in the country.
The case was appealed to the High Court and in December 2016 Japan's Supreme Court overturned the ban on SDF night flights. It upheld the damages awarded by the Tokyo High Court. The plaintiffs planned to file a fifth lawsuit as soon as February 2017.
In 2013 the JCP also protested after a USN Seahawk helicopter from Atsugi crashed in Miura city, and asked that Bell Boeing V-22 Ospreys not be deployed to Atsugi. When Ospreys were sent to the base for training this caused local protests.
Atsugi currently hosts Carrier Air Wing Five, part of aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan's air component. The wing includes about 70 aircraft and 2,000 military personnel who are stationed at Atsugi when the carrier is in port at Yokosuka. On 9 May 2008 the wing commander, Captain Michael P. McNellis, was relieved of command by Rear Admiral Richard B. Wren, commander of Commander Task Force 70, after the admiral said he lost confidence in McNellis' ability to command. McNellis was replaced by Captain Michael S. White. In 2012 the squadrons of CAW 5 completed their transition to variants of the Super Hornet/Growler, making it the first air wing without legacy Hornets.
Plans for aircraft relocation to Iwakuni
Since at least 2005 there have been plans to relocate Carrier Air Wing Five's approximately 60 fixed wing aircraft from Atsugi to Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni in Yamaguchi prefecture. The move does not includ the wing's approximately 20 helicopters. Yamaguchi governor Sekinari Nii said there was "no way" Yamaguchi prefecture would accept this. In 2006 Iwakuni voters rejected the plan in a plebiscite and Iwakuni mayor Katsusuke Ihara urged Tokyo to drop the plan. In 2007 the Japanese government passed legislation to prepare for the relocation of US Forces in Japan including subsidies for local affected areas.
Maritime Self Defence Force
- Fleet Air Wing 4, Air Patrol Squadron 3 (Lockheed P-3C Orion) (Kawasaki P-1)
- Air Transport Squadron 61 (Lockheed C-130R Hercules) (LC-90)
As of 2016, the US Navy tenant commands at NAF Atsugi are:
- Strike Fighter Squadron 27 Royal Maces (F/A-18E Super Hornet)
- Strike Fighter Squadron 102 The Diamondbacks (F/A-18F Super Hornet)
- Strike Fighter Squadron 115 Eagles (F/A-18E Super Hornet)
- Strike Fighter Squadron 195 Dambusters (F/A-18E Super Hornet)
- Electronic Attack Squadron 141 Shadowhawks (EA-18G Growler)
- Carrier Airborne Early Warning Squadron 115 Liberty Bells (Hawkeye 2000)
- Fleet Logistics Support Squadron 30 Detachment 5 Providers (C-2 Greyhound)
- Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron 77 Saberhawks (MH-60R Seahawk)
- Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 12 Golden Falcon (MH-60S Seahawk)
- This article incorporates public domain material from the Air Force Historical Research Agency website http://www.afhra.af.mil/.
- Maurer, Maurer (1983). Air Force Combat Units Of World War II. Maxwell AFB, Alabama: Office of Air Force History. ISBN 0-89201-092-4.
- AFHRA History search Atsugi
- Biographies Retrieved August 17, 2016
- NAF Atsugi (official site)
- AIS Japan
- "FUTURE PLANS FOR PROJECT AQUATONE/OILSTONE" (gif). Central Intelligence Agency. 29 July 1957. p. 2. Retrieved 2010-06-12.
- Powers, Francis (1960). Operation Overflight: A Memoir of the U-2 Incident. Potomac Books, Inc. p. 43,49-50,94. ISBN 9781574884227.
- Associated Press (6 April 1964). "U.S. Plane in Japan Kills Four in Crash". New York Times. p. 7.
- Living With the Nightmare of Planes and Aircraft Carriers at U.S. Bases in Japan: Upgrading Iwakuni and Yokosuka April 7, 2008 Chugoku Shimbun Retrieved December 10, 2016
- Plaintiffs in Atsugi base airplane noise lawsuit irked by Supreme Court ruling December 9, 2016 Mainichi Shimbun Retrieved December 10, 2016
- History CNIC Retrieved December 10, 2016
- personal knowledge, contributor is son of pilot
- Hirano, Keiji (Kyodo News) (28 September 2012). "Group saves records of fatal U.S. fighter jet crash". Japan Times. Retrieved 2012-09-28.
- Atsugi naval warehouse catches fire February 9, 1999 Japan Times Retrieved August 10, 2016
- Yoshida, Reiji Leftist group raided after projectile attack February 19, 2004 Japan Times Retrieved August 10, 2016
- Stars and Stripes, "Hangar fire at Atsugi injures 3", 16 November 2009.
- Reed, Charlie, "Military wraps up first round of departures from Japan", Stars and Stripes, 25 March 2011, retrieved 28 March 2011.
- ASN Wikibase Occurrence # 162748 Retrieved August 27, 2016
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- Kawasaki man arrested for pointing laser beam at MSDF aircraft December 1, 2016 Japan Times Retrieved December 1, 2016
- Hesse, Stephen Is the Atsugi tragedy finally drawing to a close? February 28, 2010 Japan Times Retrieved August 26, 2016
- Hesse, Stephen U.S. sues Atsugi incinerator operator February 12, 2001 Japan Times Retrieved August 11, 2016
- Hesse, Stephen Is this a poisons coverup? June 27, 2007 Japan Times Retrieved August 11, 2016
- Hanai, Kiroku Noisy assaults on living October 27, 2008 Japan Times Retrieved August 10, 2016
- Hongo, Jun 4 billion yen awarded for Atsugi base noise Jul 14, 2006 Japan Times
- In shock decision, Yokohama court halts SDF night flights at base shared with U.S. May 21, 2014 Japan Times Retrieved December 9, 2016
- Reducing military jet noise August 9, 2015 Japan Times Retrieved August 10, 2016
- High court upholds ban on SDF night flights at Atsugi, lets U.S. off the hook July 30, 2016 Japan Times Retrieved December 9, 2016
- Supreme Court overturns ruling to suspend nighttime SDF flights at Atsugi air base December 8, 2016 Japan Times Retrieved December 9, 2016
- Quiet Protest and US Base July 25, 1988 LA Times Retrieved August 27, 2016
- 20,000 protest at U.S. base in Japan July 24, 1988 Lakeland Ledger Retrieved August 27, 2016
- Atsugi F/A-18 training draws noise protest from city officials May 22, 2005 Stars and Stripes Retrieved August 27, 2016
- JCP protests U.S. forces’ exercises with F-16s and FA-18s at Atsugi December 11, 2007 Akahata Retrieved August 27, 2016
- JCP in Kanagawa protests against US military copter crash December 2013 Japan Press Weekly Retrieved August 27, 2016
- Ospreys fly to Atsugi base again en route to training August 19, 2014 Japan Times Retrieved August 27, 2016
- Weaver, Teri, "Kitty Hawk Air Wing Commander Removed For 'Loss Of Confidence'", Stars and Stripes, 11 May 2008.
- Commander Carrier Air Wing 5 Relieved of Command May 9, 2008 Navy.mil Retrieved August 10, 2016
- Stewart, Joshua Corps to base F-35s in Asia-Pacific region January 21, 2015 Marine Times Retrieved August 11, 2016
- Iwakuni to take in Atsugi jets? Jun 4, 2005 Japan Times Retrieved August 10, 2016
- Yamaguchi governor rips Iwakuni move October 31, 2005 Japan Times Retrieved August 10, 2016
- Johnston, Eric Iwakuni voters reject realignment plan Mar 13, 2006 Japan Times
- Drop base plan: Iwakuni mayor March 17, 2006 Japan Times Retrieved August 10, 2016
- Diet enacts law that paves way for U.S. forces realignment May 24, 2007 Japan Times Retrieved August 10, 2016
- Air wing's move from Atsugi to Iwakuni delayed 3 years January 25, 2013 Stars and Stripes Retrieved August 10, 2016
- Moriyasu, Ken US Navy needs touch-and-go practice strip May 13, 2016 The Nikkei Retrieved August 31, 2016
- Reducing military jet noise August 9, 2015 Japan Times Retrieved August 10, 2016
- 厚木航空基地 Retrieved August 11, 2016 (Japanese)
- NAF Atsugi: Tenant commands Retrieved August 10, 2016
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