An E-3 Sentry assigned to the 961st Airborne Air Control Squadron operates at Kadena Air Base, Okinawa, June 24, 2022.

An E-3 Sentry assigned to the 961st Airborne Air Control Squadron operates at Kadena Air Base, Okinawa, June 24, 2022. (Tylir Meyer/U.S. Air Force)

KADENA AIR BASE, Okinawa — Officials on Okinawa want the Air Force to take preventative measures after a Boeing E-3 Sentry leaked about 42 gallons of fuel over the weekend at the home of the 18th Wing.

The U.S. military discovered the leak Saturday during a post-maintenance inspection on the aircraft, according to a Tuesday post on X, formerly Twitter, by the island prefecture’s Base Countermeasures Division.

Fuel from the leak flowed into a stormwater drain, the division said. The prefecture has asked the Okinawa Defense Bureau — an arm of Japan’s Ministry of Defense — to urge the U.S. military to implement preventative measures.

However, the government has yet to receive details about the leak, a spokesman for the prefecture’s Environment Division told Stars and Stripes by phone Tuesday.

“We carried out visual investigations at six sites in the rivers surrounding Kadena Air Base yesterday and detected no contamination or odors,” he said. Japanese government spokespeople are often required to speak to the media only on condition of anonymity.

Spokespeople with Kadena’s 18th Wing acknowledged but did not respond to questions emailed by Stars and Stripes on Tuesday.

E-3s — commonly called AWACS, or airborne warning and control systems — can hold about 21,000 gallons of fuel, according to the Air Force.

Kadena’s E-3s are assigned to the 961st Airborne Air Control Squadron. The unit gathers information that visiting forces can use to maneuver throughout the Indo-Pacific region, the wing said in a news release on June 29, 2022.

“The AWACS provides situational awareness of friendly, neutral and hostile activity with radar and computer subsystems that allow surveillance of the Earth’s surface up into the stratosphere, over land and water, with a range of more than 250 miles,” the release said. “This information can be forwarded to major command and control centers, on land or sea, to get a clear picture of the battlefield and deter enemy advancement.”

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Keishi Koja is an Okinawa-based reporter/translator who joined Stars and Stripes in August 2022. He studied International Communication at the University of Okinawa and previously worked in education.
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Seth Robson is a Tokyo-based reporter who has been with Stars and Stripes since 2003. He has been stationed in Japan, South Korea and Germany, with frequent assignments to Iraq, Afghanistan, Haiti, Australia and the Philippines.

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