Ripsaw, which opened in the early 1950s, is the only range of its type in northern Japan for use by U.S. and Self-Defense forces. Live ordnance cannot be dropped there; however, small amounts of gunpowder in ammunition is used for scoring hits on range targets. F-16s frequently fly between Misawa Air Base and Ripsaw Range, 10 NM to the north. This air-to-ground gunnery range is the only bilateral training range on mainland Japan. This $68 million facility receives and is responsible for scoring more than 365 U. S. Forces Japan sorties per month.
In the late 1990s Cubic Worldwide Technical Services, a subsidiary of San Diego-based Cubic Corporation, captured several multimillion dollar operation and maintenance contracts for Cubic-developed Air Combat Maneuvering Instrumentation systems, including the Ripsaw Range in Japan and British Aerospace North Sea Range. CWTS personnel provide a variety of services in support of training devices, simulators, and military range systems including operations, maintenance, logistics support, range support, simulator instruction, and other services. CWTS supports Live Fire Combat Training Ranges such as the Ripsaw Range in Misawa Japan (strafe pits, ordnance dropping, electronic warfare, etc.)
Cubic Worldwide Technical Services personnel provide scoring operations for strafe pits and conventional ordnance deliveries including Acoustiscore and M2 Aiming Circles. All systems are tested for operational readiness, and Electronic Warfare (EW) profiles are developed based on the training and mission requirements to maximize training. CWTS personnel provide feedback to the user aircrews, perform the Range Control functions, and perform operator training. Electronic Warfare Threat Emitters are positioned, set-up, maintained, and operated in accordance with the requested profile. In addition, CWTS technicians operate heavy equipment for locating targets, maintaining and cleaning target areas, and transporting equipment. Facility maintenance includes vegetation control, refuse disposal, building maintenance, snow removal, road maintenance, and custodial and housekeeping services. Other activities include hazardous material handling and storage, target repair, supply support, and the calibration and repair of test, maintenance, and diagnostic equipment (TMDE).
A charge of white phosphorous is released when the bomb makes impact so cameras at the range can tell F-16 pilots how close they delivered the practice bomb. Pilots never release practice bombs outside of the range's 63,000 square-foot impact area, and radar and the F-16's navigation systems make sure off-range drops don't happen.
Pilots receive a thorough range orientation during their first mission to Ripsaw, with emphasis on the size of the range as well as the proximity of populated areas to the range and the delivery patterns. Flight leads advise RAPCON when entering and exiting the Ripsaw PCA. To remain inside Ripsaw airspace, do not proceed further than 10 NM from the target after the "base" turn. Remain east of the town of Noheji. For clearance to drop, report three miles, target in sight. Plan low-angle strafe as the last hot event. Follow procedures and routing with confirmed or suspected hung ordnance. Use chase aircraft when possible. For RWY 10 recoveries, proceed southwest over Lake Ogawara to enter a left base for landing. For RWY 28, remain over the ocean to recover from a straight-in approach. De-arm at the normal de-arm location. For a Gun Malfunctions, declare an emergency and RTB via the hung ordnance recovery. If the ranger calls out a no spot, pilots will check to see if the aircraft weapon system commanded a release, remain feet wet and attempt to visually confirm the status of the bomb. If the bomb released or a switch error occurred, continue normal delivery operations. If the bomb is hung, remain feet wet, and make subsequent attempts to release over water within Ripsaw airspace (<5 SM) or in international waters (>12NM). If the bomb is subsequently released, continue normal operations provided there are normal avionics indications. If the bomb release cannot be visually confirmed or does not release, RTB Misawa using the hung bomb pattern. The controlled bailout area is Ripsaw Range, MIS 360/10. RAPCON can provide radar vectors or flight following to the area on request. Pilots should attempt to eject at a point that will allow parachute landing on or near Ripsaw Range with aircraft impact into the water. Bail out on an easterly heading at or above 2,000' AGL.
In August 2000 Air Force officials announced a shift in training hours for four days, starting Monday, at Ripsaw gunnery range. From Monday through Thursday, American fighter pilots will train from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m., instead of 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. The change in hours was necessary so F-16 fighter pilots can meet minimum training requirements for night operations. In May 2000, a similar extension of nighttime hours caused an uproar from residents living in farming communities near and adjacent to the range, who complained about the noise and potential for accidents. In May, farmers in the midst of rice planting claimed the noise from fighters strafing the range kept them from getting enough sleep. Community leaders also said residents were fearful that low-flying aircraft could crash.
Recovery operations for the F-16 which crashed into the Pacific Ocean 03 April 2001 ended 05 May 2001. 1st Lt. Mark Hadley ejected while practicing air-to-ground maneuvers at the bombing range. He was not injured. The $20 million F-16CJ settled in about 20 feet of water. Small trails of petroleum products leaking from the aircraft were carried northward toward the village by the offshore currents after the accident. Ripsaw Range commenced normal operations 07 May. The USS Safeguard, a U.S. Navy salvage vessel, had been conducting operations for aircraft debris in the restricted area around Ripsaw Range. Items recovered to date include the radar unit, a nose strut, portions of the cockpit section, drive gear accessories, a portion of the fuselage, the gun system assembly, the rear ejection seat, an M-61 gun system drum, the engine and part of a fuel tank, the wings, the main landing gear, and a piece of tail section.
For two weeks at a time, members of the 353rd Special Operations Group sharpen their wartime skills in the skies of Northern Japan and at the adjacent Ripsaw Range. The 31st Special Operations Squadron [Black Knights] fly Pave Lows out of Osan Air Base, South Korea. The Air Commandos of the 31st train extensively with teams from the 320th Special Tactics Squadron from Kadena Air Base, Japan. Pararescuemen and Combat Controllers practiced ingress, egress and team movements using the Pave Lows as their platform. They also trained on "call for fire" and night water operations.
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