Matsushima Air Base, just north of Sendai, suffered heavy damage due to flooding during the tsunami that swept the region. Located just seven feet (2.2 meters) above sea level, Matsushima was also located right on the coastline, and the wall of water swept over the base and continued inland.
Damage at the base has been widely reported, but what is less reported int the Western press is that 300 air base personnel, on leave at the time of the tsunami, are not accounted for. The missing reportedly lived in the nearby area. Eighteen F-2 fighters (pictured above) were also damaged, one pushed by the water and colliding nose-first with a building. Reports indicate those 18 fighters may not be salvageable for future use. Even the “gate guardians” of the base, including two T-2 trainers, one F-104 Starfighter, and two F-86 Sabres, had sustained damage.
Matsushima is right in the middle of the devastation, and if repairable could play a vital role in supporting relief operations all around it. The buildings may not be serviceable and fuel supplies may or may not be contaminated, but the air base is still miles of flat concrete capable of supporting helicopters, and it is still connected to the nearby community via Japan’s excellent roads. The U.S. Air Force maintains Red Horse engineering teams designed to repair and return to service damaged airfields. Four such units exist, the closest being the 554th Red Horse at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam. It is unknown if the Japan Air Self-Defense Force has a similar capability.