On Jan. 16, 2023 F-16CM Fighting Falcons from the 52nd Fighter Wing, Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, arrived at Kadena Air Base, Japan, to support the on-going phased return of Kadena’s fleet of F-15C/D Eagles to the US.
According to a USAF news release, while deployed to Japan, the highly maneuverable, multi-role F-16s will work in conjunction with Kadena-based assets and F-22A Raptors deployed from the 3rd Wing, Joint Base Elmendorf Richardson, Alaska, to ensure continued steady-state fighter capabilities.
Together the diverse array of fighters, alongside joint and allied forces strengthen operational readiness to defend Japan while ensuring a free and open Indo-Pacific through a robust presence of dynamic fighter aircraft.
“We are excited to be here supporting our allies and partners in the Indo-Pacific region,” said Lt. Col. Shaun Loomis, 480th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron commander. “We look forward to training and operating in this uniquely complex and strategically vital region. Additionally, we are grateful for the opportunity to experience day-to-day life and local culture here in Okinawa.”
The Fighting Falcon is renowned for its fly-by-wire system, and exceptionally flexible design enabling it to excel worldwide in a range of both air-to-air and air-to-ground roles.
Since Nov. 4, deployed F-22s have employed their unique mix of stealth, super cruise, advanced avionics and sensor fusion capabilities to bring air dominance to the Keystone of the Pacific, augmenting the air-to-air capabilities of Kadena’s F-15 fleet. As the F-16s begin operations, they too will integrate their unique strengths to help Team Kadena deter and, if necessary, prevail over acts of aggression that threaten peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific.
The 480th Fighter Squadron of the 52nd Fighter Wing has been the first active-duty USAF F-16CM fighter squadron to receive Northrop Grumman AN/APG-83 Scalable Agile Beam Radar (SABR) active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar system upgrades.
In the Indo-Pacific environment the AESA system is vital to further decreasing limitations against not only enemy fighter aircraft, but also cruise missiles, further fortifying base defenses in the region.
The AN/APG-83 features all-weather, high-resolution synthetic aperture radar mapping to present the pilot with a large surface image for more precise target identification and strike compared to legacy systems. Its design incorporates proven hardware and advanced operating modes from Northrop Grumman’s fifth-generation F-35 and F-22 AESA radars. The high degree of commonality and shared manufacturing processes and infrastructure drives efficiencies and affordability improvements across all of Northrop Grumman’s AESA radar programs.
“These temporary deployments bring a diverse set of platforms to the region and provide the opportunity to integrate, train, and operate with our joint forces and international Allies and partners,” said Col. Henry Schantz, 18th Operations Group commander.
For decades, Kadena Air Base has served as the keystone of the Pacific. The base’s strategic position makes it a vital staging location for forces to deter regional adversaries and project US airpower throughout the Indo-Pacific. As the 18th Wing continues the on-going phased return of Kadena’s fleet of Eagles, the Department of Defense will continue to maintain a steady-state fighter presence in the region by temporarily deploying newer and more advanced aircraft to backfill the F-15s as they retrograde to the US.
As already reported, as part of its modernization plan, the US Air Force is retiring the aging fleet of F-15C/D Eagle aircraft that have been in service for more than four decades.
Modernizing capabilities in the Indo-Pacific theater remains a top priority. The transition to more capable aircraft at Kadena exemplifies the DOD’s continued commitment to enhancing posture while building on the strong foundation of our Alliance with Japan.
The service has said the F-15C/Ds at Kadena will initially be replaced by a rotation of deployed fighters, while a permanent replacement has not yet been named, though it is likely to be the F-15EX.
Photo credit: Tech. Sgt Anthony Plyler and Airman 1st Class Tylir Meyer / U.S. Air Force
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