Navy, Marines Take Part in Sapporo Air Show

SAPPORO, Japan -- Navy and Marine Corps aircraft and servicemembers traveled north to Japan's Hokkaido Island to participate in the 26th Sapporo Air Show, July 29.

Hosted by the Hokkaido Aeronautic Association, this year marks the first time since 2008, that U.S. military aircraft have participated in the air show.

"The people of Hokkaido don't usually get to see the U.S. Navy," said Rear Adm. John R. Haley, commander, Task Force 70. "They hear about the U.S. Navy on TV because of the things we do with the Kaijo Jieitai (Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force), Koku Jieitai (Japan Air Self-Defense Force) and the other self-defense forces, but they don't really get to see us. So this is a great opportunity to see the Japanese-American alliance working together, and to see us interacting with them."

The event featured aircraft fly-bys performed by F/A-18E Super Hornets of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 115, EA-18G Growlers of Electronic Attack Squadron (VAQ) 132, and a P-3C Orion from Patrol Squadron (VP) 8. Static displays also consisted of two SH-60B Seahawks from Helicopter Anti-Submarine Squadron Light (HSL) 51, two AV-8B Harriers from Marine Attack Squadron (VMA) 542, and a UC-12 Huron from Naval Air Facility Atsugi.

U.S. military participation in the air show provided Hokkaido residents with an opportunity to interact with U.S. servicemembers, while also getting an opportunity to witness some impressive firepower.

Sailors and Marines manning the aircraft on static display proved to be a hit with the locals. Fans of all ages swarmed the servicemembers with questions and requests for photos.

"The highlights for me today have certainly been the crowds and the people of Sapporo," said Cmdr. David Walt, a native of Dallas, and HSL-51 commanding officer. "The people have been wonderful, and they've asked some amazing questions. I enjoyed taking pictures with the families, showing them the aircraft, and explaining what our mission is."

With an estimated crowd of more than 40,000 in attendance, spectators came not only to see U.S. personnel and aircraft, but to check out aircraft from the Japanese Self-Defense Forces and civil aviation.

"Anytime you get a chance to view in-person a collection of aircraft such as this, it is an incredible opportunity," said Walt. "The Japanese and American alliance is certainly on display here today, and it's a fantastic thing to see and be a part of."

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