Army Aviation in Japan has a long and distinguished history that traces its roots back to the occupation of Japan following World War II when the U.S. Army established the Far East Command Aviation Section based in Tokyo. Their mission was to provide command and staff air transport within Japan, perform emergency air evacuation, emergency resupply, aerial photography and reconnaissance, or any special mission within the capability of Army Aviation. Throughout much of its history the Far East Command Aviation Section, later renamed the U.S. Army Aviation Detachment Japan and moved to Camp Zama, has had little change in mission although the size of the detachment and type of aircraft have changed. Aircraft used by the detachment has varied over the years from fixed wing aircraft such as the Stinson L-5, Aeronoca L-16, Navion L-17, De Havilland L-20, Beech L-23, and Beech 1900 to the Bell H-13, OH-58, UH-1 and UH-60 helicopters.
In 1987, major force structure changes redesignated the U.S. Army Aviation Detachment Japan, to the 78th Aviation Battalion (Provisional). Over the last two decades, the mission evolved from predominately VIP support, personnel movement, and medical evacuation (MEDEVAC) operations to additionally providing limited tactical training to units throughout mainland Japan and Okinawa and transitioned from MEDEVAC to casualty evacuation (CASEVAC). During this timeframe the battalion retired its fleet of UH-1H Huey helicopters and C-12A/J Huron airplanes and fielded UH-60A Blackhawk helicopters and UC-35 Citation jets.
On April 1, 2013, the Department of the Army granted official battalion status, and the unit was renamed the United States Army Aviation Battalion Japan, resulting in internal structure changes and additional personnel authorizations.
The mission of the U.S. Army Aviation Battalion Japan “Ninjas” is to conduct aviation operations in support of the U.S. Army Japan and I Corps (Forward). The battalion is prepared to deploy in support of regional contingencies, joint/bilateral exercises, and regional stability and support operations. The U.S. Army Aviation Battalion Japan, conducts a variety of air movement and training support missions to include distinguished visitor transport, U.S. military and Department of Defense civilian transport, overwater/shipboard operations, humanitarian assistance/disaster relief, casualty evacuation, external sling-load operations, rappelling, airborne operations, helocasting, firefighting/water bucket operations, and aerial gunnery. Ninjas have participated in many joint and bilateral exercises throughout the Pacific theater such as Yama Sakura, North Wind, Orient Shield, Ulchi Focus Lens, Cobra Gold and Balikatan. In 2011, the battalion deployed to Miyagi Prefecture as part of Operation Tomodachi, performing humanitarian disaster relief operations and troop transport in support of the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force. For its contribution and efforts the battalion was awarded the Army Superior Unit Award.
In May 2014, the unit replaced the UH-60A Black Hawk helicopters with the ‘L’ model.