With much thanks to the International F-104 Society, WarbirdsNews is happy to report on the recent refurbishment of a Lockheed F-104J Starfighter in Chitose on the island of Hokkaido, Japan. The recently restored Starfighter served the Japanese Air Self-Defense Force as serial 46-8574. She rolled off the Mitsubishi Heavy Industries production line in Komaki, just outside of Nagoya, Japan in early 1962, and officially joined the JASDF in February, 1962. She flew with just two squadrons, 201 and 203, before retiring in March, 1980. The Starfighter went on public display in an airpark beside Chitose Air Base in August, 1980, initially on concrete pads in a grass surround. They raised her onto a concrete plinth pointing skyward in 2002. As with every aircraft displayed outdoors, the elements take their toll. She came down for renewal in May, 2014. A team transported her back on her old airfield, Chitose Air Base, and began restoring her inside Hangar 4. They thoroughly cleaned the old girl, and repaired where necessary. They then painted her to represent her days in 203 Squadron on the right side and 201 Squadron on the left, before raising 574 back onto her plinth in October, 2014. She looks marvelous, and should be good for a few more years to come outside, though hopefully one day will find her a nice home indoors. More images from ‘574’s past can be seen HERE.
F-104Js were modified versions of the F-104G exclusive to Japan, and designed strictly as high speed interceptors. They carried up to four sidewinder missiles, and had an internal M61 Vulcan 20mm cannon. Being a pure interceptor, there were no provisions for ground strike weapons. Mitsubishi Heavy-Industries built 178 F-104Js in their factories; assembling a further 29 from components provided by Lockheed in the USA. Starfighters served in the Japanese military until 1986. A few soldiered on for a while as target drones before the type left Japanese skies for good.