Japanese Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada said on Nov. 1, 2022 that about a dozen F-22 Raptor fifth generation stealth fighters will be deployed rotationally to the US military’s Kadena Air Base (AB) in the southernmost prefecture of Okinawa, Nippon.com reported.
The US military will begin the deployment as a provisional measure early this month as F-15 fighter jets currently stationed at the base are aging. Tokyo was informed of the move from the US side.
‘The U.S. commitment to regional deterrence and the defense of Japan is ironclad. As part of its modernization plan, the United States Air Force is retiring the F-15C/D Eagle fleet of aircraft that has been in service for more than 30 years.
‘Starting in November, the Department of Defense will commence a phased withdrawal of F-15C/D aircraft forward-deployed to Kadena Air Base over the next two years. The U.S. will continue to maintain a steady-state presence at Kadena by temporarily deploying newer and more advanced aircraft to backfill the F-15s as they retire.
‘While the DOD has not made a decision on the long-term solution, all of the proposals under consideration include advanced capabilities that are superior to the F-15C/D. Until that decision is made, the DOD will continue to use the Global Force Management process to provide backfill solutions that maintain regional deterrence and bolster our ability to uphold our treaty obligations to Japan.
‘Modernizing our capabilities in the Indo-Pacific theater remains a top priority for the U.S. This transition to more capable aircraft at Kadena exemplifies our continued commitment to enhancing our posture and building on the strong foundation of our Alliance with Japan.’
The US plans to deploy F-22 stealth fighters on rotation at the Kadena AB on a semiannual basis for the time being, Hamada added.
About a dozen F-15 jets will return to the US within a few weeks, while around the same number of F-22 fighters will be sent over to the base.
Kadena currently fields at least 48 F-15s as part of the 18th Wing’s 44th and 67th fighter squadrons. The withdrawal of the Eagles will take place in waves as the older planes fly back to the US. The USAF’s F-15Cs and Ds are well into their third decade — some even pushing 40 years — and are nearing the end of their lives.
According to Defense News, the Pentagon is still weighing whether to eventually have squadrons of fighters permanently deployed to Kadena, or to stick with a rotational model. Aircraft being considered to replace the older F-15s include the F-15EX Eagle II — an updated variant of the fourth-generation fighter now under construction with modern avionics and capabilities — or the F-35A.
Photo credit: U.S. Air Force
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