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Improving communication: the Japan Air Self-Defense Force says goodbye to the U-125A and welcomes a new era equipped with cutting-edge satellite-based radio technology.

With the government revising its three key national security documents late last month, the country will phase out the Japan Air Self-Defense Force’s BAe125-800 U-125A search and rescue (SAR) aircrafts with new satellite-based radio equipment to locate pilots in distress. Japan plans to increase its defense budget from 1.24% of Gross domestic product (GDP) in fiscal 2021 to around 2.0% within 10 years, and has decided to retire these helicopters and aircraft as part of an effort to spend its defense budget efficiently. There could be a risk, however, that the device would not work properly due to the impact of the plane crash. Some people within the Japan Air Self-Defense Force have voiced worries, with one questioning the planned decommissioning of the U-125A aircrafts, which are mobilized as the first response for urgent life-saving missions.

The Japan Times reported that U-125A aircraft have an important role to play in the Japan Air Self-Defense Force’s initial response, such as relaying information including the location and weather conditions to a rescue helicopter when people in need of rescue are found and guiding the chopper to the site, as well as dropping survival kits for such people until they are rescued. In case of natural disasters, the aircraft are used to collect information on the extent of damage, as well as airlift people needing emergency care to hospitals at the request of prefectural governors. 

The revised national security strategy puts more weight on making preparations for security emergencies, including possessing counterstrike capabilities. Under the new Self-Defense Force law, the main mission is to defend the country, with disaster relief operations being a secondary mission.

The British Aerospace 125 is a twinjet mid-size business jet. Originally developed by de Havilland and initially designated as the DH.125 Jet Dragon, it entered production as the Hawker Siddeley HS.125, which was the designation used until 1977. Later on, more recent variants of the type were marketed as the Hawker 800. 

Having entered service as one of the first-generation executive jets, the British Aerospace 125 has been operated by a wide variety of customers, ranging from government and military operators to private customers and businesses. An unobstructed cabin floor with 5 feet 9 inches (1.75 m) of headroom and a 3 feet (0.91 m) wide cabin door also allowed the loading of bulky equipment, which was seen as particularly attractive to military operators. It was also used by the Royal Air Force as a navigation trainer, as the Hawker Siddeley Dominie T1, and was operated by the United States Air Force as a calibration aircraft, under the designation C-29.

Two versions of the BAe125-800 business jet entered JASDF service during the first half of the 1990’s under the Japan Air Self-Defense Force designations U-125 and U-125A. The U-125 is an navaides calibration aircraft for the Flight Check Group. The U-125A is a search and rescue model for the Air Rescue Wing. A total of three U-125 were delivered to JASDF during 1992-1994 and they are currently operated by the Flight Check Group based at Iruma. 

The Air Rescue Wing (ARW) has received a total of 28 U-125A SAR aircrafts since 1995 and they are currently operated by the ARW’s ten rescue detachments. The Japan Air Self-Defense Force aircraft usually have unit markings on their tail, but U-125A aircraft of the ARW have a marking on their fuselage, usually with a sticker below showing which base they are assigned to.

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