Japan’s Last F-4 Phantom IIs Retire, Ending 50 Years of Service

The three final flying F-4EJ Phantoms of the Japan Air Self-Defense Force’s Air Development and Test Wing made their final flights this morning. F-4EJ 17-8301, the first Phantom delivered to the JASDF, F-4EJ 47-8336 and F-4EJ Kai 07-8431 flew in formation over their home base of Gifu Air Base, performing one last show for aviation enthusiasts gathered around the air base to bid the Phantoms farewell.

The last three ADTW Phantoms together.

The final flights of the Phantoms comes after the last flight of F-4EJ 77-8393 last Friday, as well as the last flight of F-4EJ 07-8429 on Monday. Phantom 429 made a one-way trip to Tsuiki Air Base in Fukuoka Prefecture where it once operated from, to be preserved for static display at the base. 

The retirement of the ADTW’s Phantoms today brings to an end 50 years of Phantom operations by the JASDF. The final operational squadron, the 301st Tactical Fighter Squadron, retired its Phantoms in November last year, formally adopting the F-35A Lightning II in December

Phantom 429’s arrival at Tsuiki Air Base following its final flight on March 15

To commemorate their role as the final unit flying the Phantom in the JASDF, the ADTW Phantoms all gained commemorative markings on their splitter plates, paying tribute to the successful completion of the final missions of what once was the mainstay of the JASDF’s fighter force, and to the next generation of fighter aircraft. These markings were joined today with messages written by ADTW members on the Phantom’s armament information panels, expressing their love for the aircraft one last time.

The Flight Check Squadron’s YS-11FC receives a water cannon salute after making its final flight.

Also retired today was the YS-11FC of Iruma Air Base’s Flight Check squadron. The YS-11FC, used by the squadron to verify the accuracy of radio navigation beacons around JSDF facilities across Japan, was the oldest aircraft in the JASDF’s inventory, having flown for 56 years since its induction in 1965. While other militarized versions of the first airliner to be wholly designed and manufactured in Japan remain in service for electronic warfare and signals intelligence missions, the Flight Check Squadron’s YS-11FC was the only YS-11 to still be powered by its original Rolls-Royce Dart turboprop engines.