Japan Air Self-Defense Force

The Japan Air Self-Defense Force (航空自衛隊, Kōkū Jieitai), JASDF, also referred to as the Japanese Air Force,[3] is the air warfare branch of the Japan Self-Defense Forces, responsible for the defense of Japanese airspace and for other aerospace operations.[4] The JASDF carries out combat air patrols around Japan, while also maintaining a network of ground and air early-warning radar systems. The branch also has an aerobatic team known as Blue Impulse and has provided air transport in UN peacekeeping missions.

Japan Air Self-Defense Force
Founded1 July 1954 (1954-07-01)[1]
Country Japan
TypeAir force
RoleAerial warfare
Size50,324 personnel (2013)[2]
777 aircraft
Part of Japan Self-Defense Forces
Garrison/HQIchigaya, Shinjuku, Tokyo, Japan
Motto(s)"Key to Defense, Ready Anytime!"
Prime Minister of JapanPM Shinzō Abe
Minister of DefenseTarō Kōno
Chief of Staff, Joint Staff General Kōji Yamazaki
Chief of the Air StaffGeneral Yoshinari Marumo
Aircraft flown
AttackF-2, F-35A, F-4EJ
E-767, EC-1, E-2C, EC-2
FighterF-4EJ, F-15J/DJ, F-2, F-35A
HelicopterUH-60J, CH-47J
TrainerF-15DJ, T-7, T-400, T-4
TransportC-1, C-2, KC-767J, C-130H, Boeing 747-400, Boeing 777-300ER

The JASDF had an estimated 50,324 personnel as of 2013, and as of 2013 operated 777 aircraft, approximately 373 of them fighter aircraft.[5]


Japan did not have a separate air force before and during World War II. Aviation operations were carried out by the Imperial Japanese Army Air Service and the Imperial Japanese Navy Air Service (Kōkūtai). Following World War II, the Imperial Japanese Army and Navy were disbanded in 1945. Article 9 of the United States–written 1947 constitution prevented Japan from having a regular military.

On 1 July 1954, the National Security Board was reorganized as the Defense Agency, and the National Security Force was reorganized afterwards as the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force (de facto post-war Japanese Army), the Coastal Safety Force was reorganized as the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (de facto post-war Japanese Navy) and the Japan Air Self-Defense Force (de facto post-war Japanese Air Force) was established as a new branch of JSDF. General Keizō Hayashi was appointed as the first Chairman of Joint Staff Council—professional head of the three branches. The enabling legislation for this was the 1954 Self-Defense Forces Act (Act No. 165 of 1954).[6] [7][8]

The Far East Air Force, U.S. Air Force, announced on 6 January 1955, that 85 aircraft would be turned over to the fledgling Japanese air force on about 15 January, the first equipment of the new force.[9]

The JASDF Air Defense Command Headquarters was relocated from Fuchu Air Base to Yokota Air Base on March 26, 2012. The relocation is due to the 2002 Defense Policy Review Initiative. The purpose is to strengthen the U.S.-Japan Security Alliance. The ADC Headquarters does command and control operations to defend Japanese airspace.

Until 2015, women were banned from becoming fighter jet and reconnaissance aircraft pilots. The first female pilot of a F-15 joined the ranks, along with three other female pilots currently in training, in 2018.[10]

Since 2008, the number of scrambles to intercept Chinese aircraft has increased rapidly. In 2010 there were scrambles against 31 Chinese aircraft and 193 Russian aircraft. In 2018 scrambles increased to against 638 Chinese aircraft and 343 Russian aircraft. Chinese aircraft flight paths are mostly in the East China Sea, around the Ryukyu islands and through the Korea Strait. Russia frequently conducts flights orbiting Japan with military aircraft.[11]

The Ministry of Defense reported in fiscal 2018 that there were 999 scrambles by JASDF jets against mainly Chinese and Russian unidentified aircraft. That is the second highest amount of scrambles by the JASDF since 1958. 638 (64%) were Chinese aircraft and 343 (34%) were Russian aircraft. On June 20 2019, two Russian bombers (Tupolev Tu-95) violated Japanese airspace twice on the same day.[12]


Major units of the JASDF are the Air Defense Command, Air Support Command, Air Training Command, Air Development and Test Command, and Air Materiel Command. The Air Support Command is responsible for direct support of operational forces in rescue, transportation, control, weather monitoring and inspection. The Air Training Command is responsible for basic flying and technical training. The Air Development and Test Command, in addition to overseeing equipment research and development, is also responsible for research and development in such areas as flight medicine.

The Air Defense Command has northern, central, and western regional headquarters located at Misawa, Iruma, and Kasuga, respectively and the Southwestern Composite Air Division based at Naha, Okinawa Prefecture. All four regional headquarters control surface-to-air missile units of both the JASDF and the JGSDF located in their respective areas.


The Japan Air Self-Defense Force flag was first adopted in 1955 after the JASDF was created in 1954. It is based on a cap badge made in 1954. The flag is cobalt blue with a gold winged eagle on top of a combined star, the moon, the Hinomaru sun disc and clouds.[13][14] The latest version of the JASDF flag was re-adopted on 19 March 2001.[15] The JASDF flag is different from the JSDF flag and the JGSDF flag. It is determined by a directive regarding the flags of the JSDF.



NATO codeOF-9OF-8OF-7OF-5OF-4OF-3OF-2OF-1
空将空将補 1等空佐2等空佐3等空佐 1等空尉2等空尉3等空尉
English translationGeneralLieutenant generalMajor general ColonelLieutenant colonelMajor CaptainFirst lieutenantSecond lieutenant
Insignia Type A
Insignia Type B
Insignia Miniature Type

Warrant Officer and Enlisted(准尉および曹士)

Rank准空尉空曹長1等空曹2等空曹3等空曹 空士長1等空士2等空士自衛官候補生
English translationWarrant officerSenior master sergeantMaster sergeantTechnical sergeantStaff sergeantAirman 1st classAirman 2nd classAirman 3rd classSelf defense official cadet
Insignia Type A

Insignia Type B
Insignia Miniature Type
No insignia


The JASDF maintains an integrated network of radar installations and air defense direction centers throughout the country known as the Basic Air Defense Ground Environment. In the late 1980s, the system was modernized and augmented with E-2C Hawkeye airborne early warning aircraft. The nation relies on fighter-interceptor aircraft and surface-to-air missiles to intercept hostile aircraft. Both of these systems were improved from the beginning of the late 1980s. Outmoded aircraft were replaced in the early 1990s with more sophisticated models, and Nike-J missiles have been replaced with the modern Patriot PAC-2 and PAC-3 system. The JASDF also provides air support for ground and sea operations of the JGSDF and the JMSDF and air defense for bases of all the forces. Base defenses were upgraded in the late 1980s with new surface-to-air missiles, modern antiaircraft artillery and new fixed and mobile aircraft shelters.


Current inventory

Aircraft Origin Type Variant In service Notes
Combat Aircraft
Mitsubishi F-2 Japan multirole F-2A 62[16] based on the Lockheed Martin F-16
Mitsubishi F-2 Japan conversion trainer F-2B 20[16]
F-4 Phantom II United States multirole EF/RF-4EJ 73[16]
F-15 Eagle United States air superiority F-15J 155[16] manufactured by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries
F-15 Eagle United States conversion trainer F-15DJ 45[16] manufactured by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries
F-35 Lightning II United States multirole F-35A 12[17][18] 105 on order[19]
Boeing E-767 United States early warning and control 4[16]
E-2 Hawkeye United States AEW E-2C/D 13 2 on order[16]
Electronic Warfare
Kawasaki C-1 Japan electronic warfare 1[16]
NAMC YS-11 Japan electronic warfare 4[16]
Boeing KC-767 United States aerial refueling / transport 4[16]
Lockheed Martin KC-130 United States aerial refueling KC-130H 1[16]
Boeing 747 United States VIP 747-400 2[20] call sign Japanese Air Force One
Boeing 777 United States VIP 777-300ER 1 1 on order[21]
Gulfstream IV United States VIP 5[16]
Hawker 800 United Kingdom SAR / transport 27[16]
Kawasaki C-1 Japan transport 20[16]
Kawasaki C-2 Japan heavy transport 3 17 on order[16]
C-130 Hercules United States transport C-130H 14[16]
NAMC YS-11 Japan transport 1[16]
CH-47 Chinook United States transport / utility CH-47J 17[16] licensed built by Kawasaki Heavy Industries
Sikorsky UH-60 United States utility / transport UH-60J 41[16] licensed built by Mitsubishi
Trainer Aircraft
Hawker 400 United States jet trainer T-1 Jayhawk 13[16]
Fuji T-3 Japan trainer 49[16]
Kawasaki T-4 Japan jet trainer 201[16]
NAMC YS-11 Japan multi engine trainer 2[16]

See also


  1. "Japan Self-Defense Force | Defending Japan". Defendingjapan.wordpress.com. Archived from the original on 2015-02-16. Retrieved 2014-08-03.
  2. "What is JASDF?|ORGANIZATION | [JASDF] Japan Air Self-Defense Force". www.mod.go.jp. Archived from the original on 2015-03-17. Retrieved 2015-02-04.
  3. Gao, Charlie (19 February 2018). "Japan's Air Force: The Best in Asia?". Archived from the original on 30 May 2018. Retrieved 29 May 2018.
  4.  This article incorporates public domain material from the Library of Congress Country Studies website http://lcweb2.loc.gov/frd/cs/.
  5. "World Air Forces 2014". Archived 2013-12-25 at the Wayback Machine Flightglobal.com
  6. "Japan Self-Defense Force | Defending Japan". Defendingjapan.wordpress.com. Retrieved 2014-08-03.
  7. Takei, Tomohisa (2008). "Japan Maritime Self Defense Force in the New Maritime Era" (PDF). Hatou. Hatou. 34: 3. Archived from the original (pdf) on 15 December 2018.
  8. 武居智久 (2008). 海洋新時代における海上自衛隊 [Japan Maritime Self Defense Force in the New Maritime Era] (PDF). 波涛 (in Japanese). 波涛編集委員会. 34: 5. Archived from the original (pdf) on 15 December 2018.
  9. Associated Press, "Jap Air Force Will Get 85 U. S. Planes", Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania), 7 January 1955, Volume 28, Number 137, page 2.
  10. "First Japanese woman to fly fighter jet". BBC News. 2018-08-24. Archived from the original on 2018-08-24. Retrieved 2018-08-24.
  11. "Airspace Surrounding Japan". Japan Ministry of Defense. 26 August 2018. Archived from the original on 28 August 2018. Retrieved 28 October 2019.
  12. "Russian bombers violated Japan's airspace twice in one day, defense ministry says". Stars and Stripes. 2019-06-21. Archived from the original on 2019-06-22. Retrieved 2019-06-23.
  13. 自衛隊の旗に関する訓令
  14. 桜星の数はかつての陸上自衛隊と同様、階級ではなく部隊規模を示していた。
  15. "Air Self Defense Force (Japan) |publisher=CRW Flags". www.crwflags.com. Archived from the original on 2016-03-15. Retrieved 2019-10-26.
  16. "World Air Forces 2018". Flightglobal Insight. 2018. Retrieved 4 May 2018.
  17. "Lockheed Martin unveils first F-35 built for Japan".
  18. "Japan Receives 1st F-35 Joint Strike Fighter". thediplomat.com. Retrieved 19 March 2017.
  19. "Japan searches for new plane for Prime minister". bloomberg.com. Retrieved 3 July 2015.
  20. "New government plane delivered to Japan". NHK World. 17 August 2018.


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