(This photo by Cp9asngf, all others are from Japan Air Self Defense Force)
On the opening day of 2020 Tokyo Olympics, July 23, 2021, the Blue Impulse flew over Tokyo with color smoke to welcome the games. The Blue Impulse was formed as Japan Air Self Defense’s aerobatic team in 1960 using the F-86F Saber fighter. The Blue Impulse became a household name in 1964, when they flew over the national stadium in Tokyo during the opening ceremony for the first Tokyo Olympic games and displayed the Olympic symbol of five circles with smoke. Let’s take a closer look at the Blue Impulse; what aircraft they use, who pilot the aircraft, how they display their skills and more.
The aircraft being used now is the T-4 “Dolphin” subsonic trainer powered by twin jet engines. The T-4 was developed by Kawasaki Heavy Industries and its engines by Ishikawajima-Harima Heavy Industries. It made its first flight in 1985 and altogether 212 machines were built. Incidentally, The Blue Impulse aircraft has a thicker canopy to withstand bird strikes as they operate mostly at lower altitude.
The Blue Impulse is composed of six T-4s. Pilots come from operational squadrons for a stint of three years. What kind of aerobatic displays to be performed at each event depends on weather conditions. There will be no limitations if visibility is more than 8 kms and cloud ceiling is above 10,000 ft. The minimum conditions are 5 kms visibility and a 1,500 ft ceiling; in this case only a fly-over will be performed.
The T-4 is the third aircraft used by the Blue Impulse. The first was the F-86F Saber fighter (the photos below) with a single jet engine from 1960 to 1981. The aircraft was manufactured by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries under license from then North American Aviation.
The second aircraft was the T-2 twin jet supersonic (Max. speed Mach 1.6) trainer (the photos below) from 1982 to 1995. The T-2 was developed by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries. Ninety-six T-2s were manufactured.
Before concluding it must be mentioned that there have been crashes by the Blue Impulse aircraft over its more than 60 years of activity: seven crashes for the F86F, three for the T-2 and two for the T-4.
Here is a message by lieutenant Colonel Endo Yuki, the leader of the Blue Impulse. “… The year 2021 will be the year where we can show our aerobatic
displays to our best. I hope many people will watch us so that we can invigorate them in whatever way. With this in mind, I would like to fly my aircraft….”