In recognition of the US Air Force (USAF) F-15 Eagle’s legacy, the 18th Wing hosted the Kadena Eagle Sunset Celebration, April 14-15. The event gathered F-15 pilots, intelligence professionals, maintainers, families, and others who directly contributed to the success of the F-15C/D the last 44 years.
As told by US Air Force Staff Sgt. Savannah L. Waters, 18th Wing Public Affairs, in the article Sun sets on Kadena’s F-15 Eagle, as part of its modernization plan, the Air Force is returning Kadena’s senior fleet of F-15C/D Eagle aircraft back to the US. The decision marks a significant milestone in the history of the base, which has hosted the venerable air superiority fighter since 1979.
“Kadena-based F-15C/D Eagles have ensured air superiority for decades to uphold a free and open Indo-Pacific,” said USAF Gen. Ken Wilsbach, Pacific Air Forces commander. “We owe the many men and women, past and present, who have flown, maintained and supported the F-15 for their invaluable contributions toward peace and safety in the region.”
Wilsbach, the 18th Wing’s commander from 2009 to 2011, attended the celebration and flew with the wing to bid the F-15 farewell.
“Because of Kadena’s strategic location, we must maintain capabilities to address near-term threats while accelerating vital modernization efforts necessary for success in a high-end conflict,” said Wilsbach, who also flew F-15s as a captain at Kadena from 1993 to 1996.
“While we say farewell to a venerable aircraft that has rightfully earned its place among the greatest air-superiority fighters ever built, we look forward to introducing even more advanced capabilities to the region,” he said.
As the unit progresses through this transitory phase, the US Department of Defense will continue to maintain a continuous fighter presence in the region by temporarily deploying newer and more advanced aircraft to backfill the F-15s as they return to the US mainland.
Last month, F-35A Lightning II strike fighters belonging to the 355th Fighter Squadron, from Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska, arrived at Kadena Air Base followed on Apr. 8, by F-15E Strike Eagle fighter bombers from the 336th Fighter Squadron at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, N.C. According to Air & Space Force Magazine, that same day, F-22s Raptors and Airmen from the 525th Fighter Squadron assigned to Kadena headed home to Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska. On April 10, F-16CMs from the 480th Fighter Wing returned to Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany.
Save for the A-10, the Air Force has had every active type of fighter aircraft cycle through Kadena in the last five months: F-15C/Ds, F-15Es, F-16s, F-22s, and F-35s.
Modernizing capabilities in the Indo-Pacific theater remains a top priority, and the transition to more capable aircraft at Kadena exemplifies the DoD’s continued commitment to enhancing posture while building on the strong foundation of the Alliance with Japan.
“Pacific Air Forces’ commitment to regional deterrence and the defense of Japan remains ironclad,” Wilsbach said. “We’ve deployed Airmen and advanced combat fighters to Kadena from across the globe, ensuring no gaps in fighter coverage through this transition as we modernize our forces in the region.”
Photo credit: Senior Airman Sebastian Romawac / U.S. Air Force
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