Taiwan & Japan 2017
One of the countries that we did not visit yet in our 10 years’ existence was Taiwan. When a group of customers asked us to organise a tour for them to this country we did not hesitate. On this page you can find the report of this tour to Taiwan and a bit of Japan.
This Monday 20 November 2017 we were expecting to catch the arrivals for the Hsinchu air show and so we did! We started out quite early and arrived at the base near 07.00. A lot of aviation photographers gathered here and around 08.00 the first aircraft came in. Within a few hours a lot of different aircraft came in for the show, including the locally build IDF and AT-3. The weather was a bit grey but nevertheless we were very happy with the results as we had already seen most types of the ROCAF on our first day. Besides that, the local Mirages were doing some missions adding to a very fruitful day!. Around 15.00 the weather became harsh and so we decided to move on to our hotel in Taichung.
On Tuesday 21 November 2017 we started out at Taichung, or CCK as some people call it. As with many ROCAF bases, a big concrete wall makes looking onto base virtually impossible so we picked a spot for landing shots. With no view on the runway, we had to trust our ears whether and how many aircraft were flying but soon after we arrived we noticed the first F-CK-1 landing. From our spot we were able to photograph 11 F-CK-1s in some sunshine, a nice result! As soon as the last aircraft had landed we moved to the next base: Chiayi.
The F-16 base Chiayi has some excellent spots to take pictures of landing aircraft. Shortly after we arrived, the first F-16s of the afternoon waves took off. During our wait for the first aircraft to come back we were visited by the local police and Military Police. After checking our details they let us do our business and went away (apart from the one guy that waited until we left). Soon, the first F-16s started to come back and we were able to photograph them in warm afternoon light. After the last F-16 had landed, we headed to our hotel in Tainan.
The Flight Academy at Gangshan has a tendency to start their operations early, so we followed their routine on Wednesday 22 November. However, because of the low cloud base, activities were postponed but around 10.00 the flying started. First, the T-34s took the sky and after all eighteen aircraft had landed, the AT-3s started flying. The weather had improved significantly so we were able to take a lot of good pictures of these very interesting aircraft.
We planned to visit Tainan for afternoon missions but after we arrived we heard that nothing was happening so far that day. The Military Police that did a check on us told us that due to a birdstrike at Hsinchiu with an F-CK-1, all aircraft of this type were grounded for now. Bad luck, but since we had some driving to do towards Taitung, we drove off a bit earlier than planned.
Taitung is the main F-5 base of the ROCAF and home to 4 squadrons of this type. Again an early start and around 07.10 on Thursday 23 November 2017 we saw the first F-5s taxiing towards the runway. The sun was not out yet but it was clear and the mountains made for perfect backgrounds to our pictures. The first wave consisted of seventeen aircraft, followed by a wave of thirteen. Besides, 4 Army AH-1s were flying local missions. A lot of activity! As we learned during our trip, Thursday afternoons are usually used by the RICAF to give theoretical courses resulting in no or limited flying. This afternoon was no exception so we headed back to Pingtung for our hotel.
Friday 24 November 2017 started out dull and grey and quickly after we arrived we decided that Pingtung was not good for photography today. We decided to go to Tainan and try our luck as we heard that te F-CK-1s should be flying again. The minute we arrived we saw the first aircraft landing so they were indeed back flying again! No less than 19 aircraft took to te sky this afternoon! After the final landing we started our drive to Hsinchu.
On Saturday 25 November 2017 we got up very early for the Open Day at Hsinchu. Taiwanese Open Days are not usually open to foreigners but with help from our Taiwanese connections we were able to register and as soon as we arrived at the gate it only took minutes to gain access. Unfortunately, the weather was wet and grey combined with a very low cloud base. The static consisted of the aircraft we saw arriving almost a week earlier, plus some more aircraft we had not noticed. The airshow started with a mixed formation of three Mirages, two F-CK-1s and two F-16s, followed by solo displays of all these types. The Thunder Tigers, flying the AT-3s, had to cancel their performance due to the weather but the C-130H made up for that, what a show! Final aerial performance was the launch of 4 Mirage 2000s after being fitted with missiles on the flight line, not something you would see in Europe. The weather had not improved during the day but the wet tarmac and taxiways were nice circumstances for some alternative photography. Despite the weather a good day!
On Sunday 26 November we travelled via Taroko National Park, crossing over 3400 meters, to end up in Hualien.
On Monday 27 November 2017 we started at this combined F-16 and F-5 base, hoping to catch one of the last operational RF-5s of the ROCAF. The day started with quite a lot F-16 movements but no F-5s. The mountains near the base make for some excellent photography here, especially in the morning. In the afternoon we changed to another location where we had some more view on the base. In between F-16 operations we suddenly saw two F-5s taxiing out, including one RF-5! Needless to say we got very excited, especially after the aircraft actually took off after a failed try at first. The day ended with some more F-16s and a very excited group.
We decided to stay at Hualien in the morning of Tuesday 28 November to catch some more aircraft landing. The weather was even a bit better with occasional sun spells and good visibility. Again we were treated to an RF-5 and a F-5F. After the morning waves we headed towards Songshan, where they have a spotters cafe alongside the runway. Enjoying a drink or a biter while watching Taiwanese aircraft, excellent. As soon as we finished here we drove to our hotel for our last night in Taiwan.
A very early start on Wednesday 29 November 2017 for our flight to Japan, to Naha to be precise. After arrival we drove to the well known spotters place, and found out that on Senaga Island a whole new infrastructure was built including dedicated observation places. A very good place for photography, including parking spaces and vending machines. The Naha F-15s were very active; the afternoon waves consisted of 15 Eagles including the new specially painted one. Besides that, we were able to photography a, T-4, U-125, E-2 and P-3 in beautiful evening light. Not bad for an afternoon!
On Thursday 30 November we started out at Kadena. Besides the large amount of based aircraft, twelve F-35A from Hill AFB were present for a deployment. The day started out quite slow. No F-15 movement, 4 F-35s and just a few other aircraft. Luckily, the F-35 came back in glorious sunshine. One of the F-35 seemed to be missing a panel on the left-handside when it came back. In the afternoon we positioned ourselves at the “Up Kitty” cafe where they have a viewing deck with excellent views on the base. Photography is possible late afternoon when the sun has changed position. Late afternoon we were able to catch some nice aircraft in fading light, like the P-8, P-3 and even an RC-135.
Although Okinawa is well-known for its good and sunny weather, it certainly did not live up to its reputation on Friday 1 December 2017. Despite the bad weather, activity at Naha was high with fourteen Eagles and eight Orions flying morning missions. After lunch we headed out to Kadena AB to find a very slow base, with only a few arrivals and again no F-15 activity.
Our last day of the tour, Saturday 2 December 2017, was spend at the Spotters’ cafe at Kadena. As it was Saturday the activity was limited, but nevertheless we were able to photograph a P-8, P-3 and an USMC C-130. At the end of the day we handed in our rental car and flew back to Amsterdam via Taiwan. All in all a very interesting tour with some real gems. Hopefully we will be able to organize a similar tour somewhere in the future!