Marine Corps Air Station Futenma is one of the MCAS strongholds in Japan. It lies on elevated ground in Ginowan, Okinawa. Two medium transport tilt rotor squadrons are based and if a Marine Expeditionary Unit deploys; the helicopters can ususlly be found here as well.
In the introduction we already mentioned that Futenma is on elevated terrain. That means, combined with buildings and dense foliage, that there are not much easy views to be had. The base has a huge ramp lined with hangars South of the East-West 06-24 runway.
The air station can be reached by either follwoing the 58 road along the coast or taking the Okinawa expressway toll road. Due to the dense build-up areas and many traffic lights, the expressway is usually the fastest.
From Naha airport the expressway is of little use however. So the best option is to take the said 58 road. After following the 58 road North for about 13 kilometres, you will come up at the cross roads with road 34. You cannot miss the huge red-white communication tower and white passenger bridge over the road. Make a right here to Maehara. After 1 kilometre, make a left and you will reach spot 1.
Another obvious starting point is Kadena. The 58 can do the trick, but the Okinawa expressway can take you there as well. When using road 58, siply follow the base perimeter counter-clockwise on road 74 at first, keep left at the fork following road 58. For the expressway, go clockwise around the huge Kadena air base on road 85 and enter the expressway at exit 4 Okinawa-minami. After enjoying 12.5 kilomtres of traffic-light-free travel, take exit 2 Nishihara/Urasoe. After the toll booth, make a left onto 330/Urasoe bypass in the direction of Naha/Urasoe. Quite soon you have to exit onto 241/Maehara. There are two exits, take the second. The 241 will lead you to road 34, make a left onto that and a right at the next traffic lights to reach spot 1.
Around the Airport
1South side fence embankment
For a peek at the Southern-most part of the ramp and into the first hangar, you have to scale a very steep embankment behind some houses. This is just off road 34 on the South side of the base. Be careful if it is wet, both the grass and concrete are slippery then. Once at the fence, walk left to gain a bit of height and angle. Currently, VMM-265/EP resides in this corner.
2Kakazu park observatory
For a good overview of the Southern half of the ramp, albeit very head-on, go to the Kakazu Park Observatory. This is on a hill Southwest of the base. Best option is to go back to road 34, go left, and at the next traffic lights right onto road 241/Urasoe. After the bridge over the river and a footbridge, make a right, Kakazu Heights Park is signposted on the footbridge. After about 400 metres, there is a fork in the road at some traffic lights, go right. After a couple of hundred meters you can park your car at the entrance and scale the stairs to the Globe, and the stairs inside the Globe as well. Depending on the wind condition, you may be better of staying on the main floor of the orb rather then the top one. You can use the ceiling support pillars to stabilize your scope.
3South west side approach - P.M.
Near spot 1, there is a possibility to take some photographs of landing aircraft although they are high and you have a very short response time. For this, go back to road 34 from spot 1 and turn right after 100 metres, at the Fellows car dealership. Make a left after 100 metres. From this street you will see the fence again. Proceed and make a right shortly after. Keep right/straight at the fork, the road will gradually rise. There is a small parking lot where the fence starts and that is also probably the best/only spot for photography on this side.
4North west side appartment
This spot is literally on someone's doorstep, so not suitable for a prolonged stay. Go back to road 34 and onto road 58 Northbound. You will pass the road that leads to one of the base gates. After that, you have to make a right onto road 81/Futenma, exit 3/Kitenakagusuku is also signposted. After about 500 metres there is a traffic light, make a right here, the road climbs instantly. The road bends left when it reaches the base fence. 300 metres down this road, there is a white coloured apartment building, just as the fenceline ends. Park your car left and go up the staircase leading to the top floor apartment. You will be just high enough to have a good view into the large maintenance hangar and the North side of the ramp. Visiting/deployed helicopters are usually parked here too. With good light conditions, before sundown, you can read of the tails of the furthest MV-22s even at this acute angle. Seen from this side, VMM-262/ET is nearest.
5Alternative for spot 4
There are other apartment buildings around. The street running parallel to the North has one that looks promising. It is only 30 metres more North but much higher. The coordinates are attached to this description.
6East side approach - A.M.
To reach the East side approach follow the road from spot 4 to the East. Upon reaching road 300, make a right. After about 400 metres there is a traffic light, go right. This road may be called Nodake. At the end you will be able to take some photographs. Half way down this street, you can park your car on the left. No response time at all though...
7Sakima Art museum
An unlikely but useful spot is the Sakima Art Museum. They have a tower at their roof specifically made to view the US base. Vegetation blocks views of the ramp though, but the runway is visible. Photography of aircraft on short finals should be possible with a long lens, it is some 600 metres away. This may just be the best spot to stay a bit longer. The address of the museum is Uehara 358, Ginowan City. Current opening hours are 0930-1700. It can be reached by following the 330. The traffic lights are marked with the street name (Uehara). Go right after some apartment buildings. There is a red sign in Japanese, only the arrow and "20m" makes sense, but that is were you go in.
8Possible / untested spots
The university borders the base on the South side. There is a huge building with a glazed staircase facing the base. The university must be open and you have to withstand everybody looking at you. Also, the base infrastructure will block some of the view. But it is worth a try.
10Northwest side silos and hillside
Another untested possible spot is on the Nothwest side. Take the street towards the base from road 58 at Restaurant Peacock, a hideous red building. The street climbs slighty towards the base and adjoining vegetation, then it bends left. Immediately after, you will see two big silos on your right with a staircase leading up the hill. Park your car and venture up. Likely vegetation on base will block your view, but the platform were the silos sit on may just offer a peek or two. If not, walk on to the fence itself and go left. Buildings on the base, the high runway, everything to spoil your view will be there probably. But please try and report back to us :-)
11Northeast side schools
About 600 metres East of spot 4, there is a small road leading to two schools. One of them has an external staircase. The second one, closest to the base fence, has a makeshift medieval tower on the roof. If you get permission to enter that one, you will have more or less the same angle but from a greater height than spot 4.
12South side high rise apartment
On the South side of the base, along road 330 between the Sakima Art Museum (6) and Kokusai University (7), there is a huge apartment building. It has three distinctive staircase towers on the outside all facing North. Also it looks like a gallery type flat, so you can probably use the full length. It seems as though the view on the Northeast part of the ramp should be rather good and unobscured from here.
|360.200 / 122.800||Ground|
|340.200 / 123.600||Tower|
|335.800 / 119.100||Okinawa APP/DEP North|
|258.300 / 126.500||Okinawa APP/DEP South|
|307.100||Pilot to Dispatcher|
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