Rikujō Jieitai - 陸上自衛隊
By Hans van Dam
In 1954, the Self-Defence Law was approved and the Hoancho was replaced by a Boeicho (Defence Agency) and the Hoantai (see pre-1954 aviation units) was reorganised and renamed into the Rikujo Jieitai (Japanese Ground Self-Defense Force). All the aviation units of the Hoantai were integrated into the JGSDF and except for the T-34 Mentors, which were handed over to the newly formed JASDF, all the Hoantai's aviation assets were retained by the Rikujo Jieitai.
The Rikujo Jieitai was formed on 1st July 1954 and it inherited all units and equipment of the Hoantai. Its air component was intended as an integral part of the ground forces, tasked with observation, communications and casualty evacuation. In addition to the former Hoantai aircraft, it received a total of 31 Sikorsky H-19s and 94 Bell H-13s, entering service from 1954 onwards. Additional fixed wing aircraft were received, such as the L-19 (129), L-21 (62) and Fuji LM-1 (27). During the early years, the original six Kokutais (Aviation Corps) were carefully expanded so at the beginning of the sixties, the Rikujo Jieitai comprised of about twelve Kokutais and the Koku Gakko. On March 1959, the 1st Herikoputatai (Helicopter Squadron) was activated at Akeno, as part of Koku Gakko. At the end of the same month it moved to Kasumigaura with its complement of Sikorsky H-19 and Vertol V44 helicopters.
In January 1962 a major reorganisation took place. The Kokutais were renamed Hikotais (Aviation Squadron) and these were grouped in Kokutais attached to five separate army field forces. These armies were named geographically as follows: Hokubu Homentai (Northern Army), Tohoku Homentai (Northeastern), Tobu Homentai (Eastern), Chubu Homentai (Central) and Seibu Homentai (Western). The Kokutais falling under an army also used the geographic name, e.g. Hokubu Homen Kokutai (Northern Army Avtn Group). Each Kokutai controlled several Hikotais: one Homen Hikotai (also using the geographic name), acting as the HQ flight of the regional army and several numbered Hikotais which belonged to Divisions with the same number. This basic structure stands to the present day. The Homen Hikotais operated mainly the L-19, L-21 and LM-1, where as the numbered Hikotais mainly used L-19, L-21 and H-13. Modern equipment came in the form of UH-1B helicopters, built by Fuji, deliveries started in 1962. Halfway the sixties, the L-21 was retired. . ....Beginning 1968 saw a major expansion of helicopter operations. The 1st Herikoputatai was re-organised as the 1st Herikoputadan (Helicopter Brigade), it became an independent unit with 1st and 2nd Herikoputatai formed within and both squadrons moved to Kisarazu. These units became the main user of the Kawasaki-Vertol KV-107, first examples delivered 1966. A total of seventy KV107s were delivered, becoming the medium transport helicopter in the service. Also the regional Kokutais expanded, a Homen Herikoputatai was newly formed within each one, operating the UH-1B for light transport duties.
A modest modernisation took place in this decade. The Homen Hikotais received the OH-6J and Mitsubishi LR-1 as a replacement for their L-19 and LM-1, which were retired by the end of the 1970s. The Homen Herikoputatais retired the H-19 and these and the oldest UH-1Bs were replaced by the UH-1H, deliveries of the Bell UH-1H commenced in 1973. The majority of H-13s was also phased out during the 1970s and its main user, the numbered Hikotais received the OH-6J and UH-1B. With the return of control over Okinawa, the 1st Konseidan was activated at Kumamoto, moving to Naha in November 1972. Its aviation element was renamed 101 Hikotai in 1973, operating KV-107, UH-1B, LM-1 and LR-1, all painted in a beautiful white/orange/black colour scheme.
Eighties to present
A major modernisation of the rotary aircraft fleet took place during the 1980s and 1990s with the OH-6J being replaced by the OH-6D of which 193 were delivered, the UH-1B and a part of the UH-1H fleet by the UH-1J, production finally stopped in 2012, and the UH-60JA. The KV107 was replaced by the CH-47J and CH-47JA, still under production by Kawasaki. The AH-1S entered service as the JGSDF tactical support helicopter in 1979 and 94 have been delivered since. The Raytheon LR-2 is now very slowly replacing the sole remaining fixed wing aircraft, the Mitsubishi LR-1. An indigenous helicopter type which entered service is the Kawasaki OH-1, replacing OH-6Ds with the Anti-tank units. A replacement programme for the AH-1S Cobra, the AH-X programme, was won by the AH-64D, however budget constraints only allow acquisition of a small number of these helicopters, built by Fuji HI, to replace the Cobras of one Anti-tank unit (3rd ATH at Metabaru). It is possible Kawasaki HI will develop an armed version of the OH-1. Latest helicopter now entering service is the Enstrom TH-480, replacing the OH-6D in the training role.
A Homen Kokutai typically consists of a Homen Kokutai Honbuzukitai (Army Air Group Headquarters Squadron) with LR-2, a Homen Herikoputatai (Army Helicoptersquadron) equipped with UH-1/UH-60 and OH-6 helicopters as well as a Taisensha Herikoputatai (Anti-Tank helicopter squadron) equipped with AH-1S/AH-64 and OH-1. In addition each assigned Shidan (Division) or Ryodan (Brigade) has it's own liaison squadron equipped with UH-1J and OH-6D. The numbering of these Hikotai's reflects the division/brigade to which it is assigned. The bulk of the Rikujo Jieitai's heavy airlift power is based at Kisarazu, where a Yuso Herikoputagun (Helicopter Transport Wing) is based consisting of four hikotais with CH-47J/JA Chinooks.
Serial Number System
JGSDF aircraft are identified by a five-digit serial number on both sides of the forward fuselage and in abreviated form (last four digits only), prefixed JG-, on the vertical tail. The first digit of the full serial indicates the aircraft's primary role, as follows:
|4||helicopter, light transport|
|5||helicopter, medium transport|
|7||helicopter, tactical support|
|0||helicopter, VIP transport|
Sources: Japanese Air Arms 1952-1984 by Akira Watanabe