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The Air Self-Defense Force

The Air Self-Defense Force (ASDF) is the major aviation arm of the SDF. It had an authorized strength of 47,000 and maintained some 46,000 personnel and approximately 330 combat aircraft in 1992. Front-line formations include three ground-attack squadrons, nine fighter squadrons, one reconnaissance squadron, and five transport squadrons.

Major units of the ASDF are the Air Defense Command, Flight Support Command, Flying Training Command, Air Developing and Proving Command, and Air Matériel Command. The Flight Support Command is responsible for direct support of operational forces in rescue, transportation, control, weather monitoring, and inspection. The Flying Training Command is responsible for basic flying and technical training. The Air Developing and Proving 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 on Okinawa. All four regional headquarters control surface-to-air missile units of both the ASDF and the GSDF located in their respective areas.

The ASDF 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 airborne earlywarning aircraft.

The nation relies on fighter-interceptor aircraft and surfaceto -air missiles to intercept hostile aircraft. Both of these systems were improved beginning in the late 1980s. Outmoded aircraft were being replaced in the early 1990s with more sophisticated models, and Nike-J missiles were being replaced with new Patriot systems (see table 42, Appendix). Essentially, however, the nation relies on United States forces to provide interceptor capability.

The ASDF also provides air support for ground and sea operations of the GSDF and the MSDF and air defense for bases of all the forces. Although support fighter squadrons started being modernized in 1989, they lack precision-guided weapons for support of ground operations and attacks on hostile ships, and ASDF pilots receive little flight training over oceans to prepare for maritime operations. The ASDF has an inadequate poor base defense capability, consisting mainly of outmoded antiaircraft guns and portable shelters to house aircraft. Base defenses were being upgraded in the late 1980s with new surface-to-air missiles, modern antiaircraft artillery, and new fixed and mobile aircraft shelters.

After passing an entrance examination, recruits can enter several training programs. Lower-secondary school graduates are eligible to enter the MSDF's four-year youth cadet program to earn upper-secondary school equivalency and NCO status, or they can undergo twelve-week recruit training courses followed by technical training lasting from five to fifty weeks. Upper-secondary school graduates can also enter either two-year NCO or four-year flight courses. Specialized training is available for all NCOs, as are opportunities to enroll in officer and flight officer candidate courses. Graduates of the four-year National Defense Academy or four-year universities receive thirty to forty weeks of instruction in officer candidate schools. Advanced technical, flight, and command staff officer programs are available for officers.

Data as of January 1994