The Tokyo Express (東京急行, Tōkyō kyūkō) is a term for regular flights by Soviet (and later Russian) military aircraft past Japan. They sometimes involve violations of Japanese airspace and have often been intercepted by fighter aircraft of the Japan Air Self-Defense Force.
During the Cold War the flights tended to take place along the Sea of Japan side of the country.During the Cold War Tupolev Tu-16, Tupolev Tu-95 and Myasishchev M-4 aircraft were used. Some of them were transiting to or from Cam Ranh Base in southern Vietnam. The Soviet Union started using the base in 1979.
After the Cold War ended Russia dramatically reduced its flights and stopped using Cam Ranh base. However, from 2007 Russia re-started regular flights, which now often take place on the Pacific Ocean side of Japan.In this second iteration, Tupolev Tu-22M, Tupolev Tu-95 and Tupolev Tu-142 aircraft are used. As of 2015 Russian aircraft have begun using Cam Ranh Base again, including for Il-78 tankers to support bomber flights in the Pacific.
A strategic bomber is a medium- to long-range penetration bomber aircraft designed to drop large amounts of air-to-ground weaponry onto a distant target for the purposes of debilitating the enemy's capacity to wage war. Unlike tactical bombers, penetrators, fighter-bombers, and attack aircraft, which are used in air interdiction operations to attack enemy combatants and military equipment, strategic bombers are designed to fly into enemy territory to destroy strategic targets. In addition to strategic bombing, strategic bombers can be used for tactical missions. There are currently only three countries that operate strategic bombers: the United States, Russia and China.
The Tupolev Tu-114 Rossiya was a turboprop-powered long-range airliner designed by the Tupolev design bureau and built in the Soviet Union from May 1955. The aircraft was the largest and fastest passenger plane at that time and also had the longest range, at 10,900 km (6,800 mi). It has held the official title of fastest propeller-driven aircraft since 1960.
The Tupolev Tu-16 was a twin-engined jet strategic heavy bomber used by the Soviet Union. It has flown for more than 60 years, and the Chinese licence-built Xian H-6 remains in service with the People's Liberation Army Air Force.
The Tupolev Tu-4 is a piston-engined Soviet strategic bomber that served the Soviet Air Force from the late 1940s to mid-1960s. It was reverse-engineered from the American Boeing B-29 Superfortress.
Tupolev, officially Joint Stock Company Tupolev, is a Russian aerospace and defence company headquartered in Basmanny District, Moscow.
The Tupolev Tu-160 is a supersonic, variable-sweep wing heavy strategic bomber designed by the Tupolev Design Bureau in the Soviet Union in the 1970s. It is the largest and heaviest Mach 2+ supersonic military aircraft ever built and next to the experimental XB-70 Valkyrie in overall length. As of 2021, it is the largest and heaviest combat aircraft, the fastest bomber in use and the largest and heaviest variable-sweep wing airplane ever flown.
The Tupolev Tu-95 is a large, four-engine turboprop-powered strategic bomber and missile platform. First flown in 1952, the Tu-95 entered service with the Long-Range Aviation of the Soviet Air Forces in 1956 and is expected to serve the Russian Aerospace Forces until at least 2040. A development of the bomber for maritime patrol is designated Tu-142, while a passenger airliner derivative was called Tu-114.
The Tupolev Tu-22M is a supersonic, variable-sweep wing, long-range strategic and maritime strike bomber developed by the Tupolev Design Bureau in the 1960s. According to some sources, the bomber was believed to be designated Tu-26 at one time. During the Cold War, the Tu-22M was operated by the Soviet Air Forces (VVS) in a missile carrier strategic bombing role, and by the Soviet Naval Aviation in a long-range maritime anti-shipping role. Significant numbers remain in service with the Russian Air Force, and as of 2014 more than 100 Tu-22Ms are in use.
The Kh-55 is a Soviet/Russian subsonic air-launched cruise missile, designed by MKB Raduga. It has a range of up to 2,500 km (1,350 nmi) and can carry nuclear warheads. Kh-55 is launched exclusively from bomber aircraft and has spawned a number of conventionally armed variants mainly for tactical use, such as the Kh-65SE and Kh-SD, but only the Kh-101 and Kh-555 appear to have made it into service. Contrary to popular belief, the Kh-55 was not the basis of the submarine- and ground-launched S-10 Granat or RK-55 Relief designed by NPO Novator. The RK-55 is very similar to the air-launched Kh-55 but the Kh-55 has a drop-down turbofan engine and was designed by MKB Raduga. Both have formed the basis of post-Cold-War missiles, in particular the Sizzler which has a supersonic approach phase.
The Ukrainian Air Force is a part of the Armed Forces of Ukraine. The Ukrainian Air Force headquarters is located in the city of Vinnytsia. When the Soviet Union dissolved in 1991, many aircraft were left on Ukrainian territory. Ever since, the Ukrainian Air Force has been downsizing and upgrading its forces. The main inventory of the air force still consists of Soviet-made aircraft. Currently 36,300 personnel and 144 aircraft are in service in the Ukrainian Air Force and Air Defense forces.
Cam Ranh Air Force Base is located on Cam Ranh Bay in Khánh Hòa Province, Vietnam. It was one of several air bases built and used by the United States Air Force (USAF) during the Vietnam War.
Ugolny Airport is a mixed-use military and civil airfield in the Russian Far East located 11 km east of Anadyr, separated from the town by the waters of Anadyrsky Liman. The airfield was originally constructed sometime in the 1950s as a staging base for Long Range Aviation bombers such as the Tupolev Tu-95 and Tupolev Tu-22M, but during the Cold War years, it became the primary hub for civilian flights in the Chukotka region.
Long-Range Aviation is a branch of the Russian Aerospace Forces responsible for delivering long-range nuclear or conventional strikes. The branch was previously part of the Soviet Air Forces and Russian Air Force tasked with long-range bombardment of strategic targets with nuclear weapons. During the Cold War, it was the counterpart to the Strategic Air Command of the United States Air Force.
Chelyabinsk Shagol is a military airfield of the Russian Air Force in Chelyabinsk, Russia.
Engels Air Force Base is a strategic bomber military airbase in Russia located 14 kilometres (8.7 mi) east of Saratov. Engels is a major bomber operations base, and is Russia's sole operating location for the Tupolev Tu-160 strategic bomber. The base has a 3,500-metre (11,500 ft) runway and about 10 large revetments. It is named after the nearby city of Engels, which is in turn named after the Communist philosopher, Friedrich Engels.
The 457th Airlift Squadron was part of the 375th Air Mobility Wing and was stationed at Andrews Air Force Base, Maryland. It operated C-21 aircraft providing executive airlift.
The Tupolev Tu-142 is a Soviet/Russian maritime reconnaissance and anti-submarine warfare (ASW) aircraft derived from the Tu-95 turboprop strategic bomber. A specialised communications variant designated Tu-142MR was tasked with long-range communications duties with Soviet ballistic missile submarines. The Tu-142 was designed by the Tupolev design bureau, and manufactured by the Kuibyshev Aviation and Taganrog Machinery Plants from 1968 to 1994. Formerly operated by the Soviet Navy and Ukrainian Air Force, the Tu-142 currently serves with the Russian Navy.
The 1987 Okinawan Tu-16 airspace violation was an incident on December 9, 1987 in which a Tupolev Tu-16P Badger J1 of the Soviet Air Force repeatedly entered Japanese airspace over Okinawa and Kagoshima prefectures. This prompted a F-4EJ Phantom fighter of the Japan Air Self-Defense Force (JASDF) to fire warning shots on two occasions. It was the first time aircraft of the JASDF had done so in response to an aircraft intruding in Japanese airspace. The Soviet Union apologized, claiming that the intrusion was accidental and due to meteorological conditions.
Violations of Japanese airspace have occurred on a number of occasions. There have been 39 cases from 1967 to 2017. The vast majority have involved Soviet aircraft during the Cold War, or Russian aircraft afterwards.
The 303rd Tactical Fighter Squadron is a squadron of the 6th Air Wing of the Japan Air Self-Defense Force (JSDF) based at Komatsu Air Base, in Ishikawa Prefecture, Japan. It is equipped with Mitsubishi F-15J/DJ and Kawasaki T-4 aircraft.