Spottingtrip Japan: MCAS Iwakuni


The 3th base we visited during the first week of our stay in Japan was the Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, located in the Hiroshima Bay. MCAS Iwakuni is a shared base between the Japanese Maritime Self Defense Force and the US Navy/Marine Corps.

As the options for photographing the aircraft at Iwakuni is limited to just one spot and you face the sun for most of the day, we spent 3 days at Iwakuni in the hope to make some decent pictures from the based aircraft. No less than 14 squadrons of flying aircraft are based at Iwakuni so there was certainly no lack of flying movements.

A short summary of aircraft that can be seen there are US Navy and Marine Corps KC-130’s, F/A-18D’s, F/A-18E and F’s, EA-18G’s, F-35B’s, C-2A’s and E-2C’s. And then you also have the JMSDF who’s flying with the EP-3, OP-3C, UP-3D, U-36A, US-2 and MCH-101.



Besides the US Navy, Marine Corps and JMSDF units, Iwakuni also has a small civil terminal that’s used by ANA airlines, the civil part of the airfield is known as Iwakuni Kintaikyo airport.

Quite an interesting note is that after landing at Iwakuni, the aircraft has to taxi past the platforms and shelters from the US Navy/Marines to get to the terminal. So if you’re an military aircraft enthusiast it could be interesting to book a seat on the left hand side of the aircraft if you fly to Iwakuni.


During our 3-day stay at Iwakuni we were lucky that both runways were used so descent pictures could be made. And a disadvantage that eventually turned out to be an advantage was that it was really cold which allowed us to make some pictures from aircraft taxiing from/towards the runway. Something that isn’t possible when the weather is good due to the distance to the aircraft in combination with the heatwaves.

Some personal highlights during our 3-day stay were the numerous variants of the Orions that were flying missions, the US-2 flying boats of which one was performing water landings at the end of our second day but that one sadly couldn’t be photographed due to the distance and the faded light but it was a spectacular sight nonetheless and third highlight was the return of 12 F-35B’s from VFMA-121 after a deployment onboard the USS Wasp.

Below a small impression of shots that we made during our stay at the Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni.  

Text: Tim Van den Boer

Photography: Tim Van den Boer & Ludo Kloek