F/A-18s from Carrier Air Wing 5 at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan, take part in field carrier-landing practice at Iwo Jima, Japan, May 17, 2019.

F/A-18s from Carrier Air Wing 5 at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan, take part in field carrier-landing practice at Iwo Jima, Japan, May 17, 2019. (Stars and Stripes)

YOKOSUKA NAVAL BASE, Japan — Naval aviators are scheduled for 11 days of carrier-landing practice on Iwo Jima ahead of the USS Ronald Reagan’s final deployment before returning stateside.

The training — an annual requirement for Carrier Air Wing 5 before it leaves with the Ronald Reagan on its annual patrol — will run between Saturday and May 15, Naval Forces Japan announced Thursday.

Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni-based pilots and crews of fixed-wing aircraft, including F-18 Super Hornets, EA-18G Growlers and C-2 Greyhounds, take part in the training.

Senior pilots fly at least six sorties — three during the day and three at night — and complete seven or eight touch-and-go landings. Junior pilots undergo more extensive training and may complete a dozen or more touch-and-goes.

This year’s training will be the last before the Ronald Reagan relocates from Japan to Puget Sound Naval Shipyard in Bremerton, Wash., sometime this summer.

Its replacement, the USS George Washington, departed Naval Station Norfolk, Va., on April 25 for a deployment to Central and South America, after which it will steam for its new homeport with the 7th Fleet.

Most of the carrier-landing practice will take place at Iwo Jima, also known as Iwo To, where Carrier Air Wing 5 has carried out its training since 1991.

Other U.S. airfields in Japan, such as Yokota Air Base or Misawa Air Base, are reserved as alternative training sites in the case of bad weather or other circumstances, according to the announcement.

The island is not used as a permanent training site due to its remote location — about 750 miles southeast of mainland Japan — and lack of alternative landing sites.

However, the Japanese government has committed to finding a permanent training area for the Navy, according to the release.

The Japanese Defense Ministry began work in January 2023 on a new site for U.S. carrier-landing practice on Mageshima, an island 20 miles south of Kyushu, the southernmost of Japan’s four main islands.

The $1.6 billion base will include an 8,000-foot main runway, a 6,000-foot crosswind runway, a port and ammunition and fuel storage facilities, according to the ministry. It’s anticipated to be completed by 2027.

Naval Forces Japan spokesman Cmdr. Paul Macapagal on Thursday referred all questions regarding Mageshima or other alternative locations for a permanent training site to the Japanese government.

A spokesperson for Japan’s Ministry of Defense did not immediately respond to an email requesting comment that afternoon.

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Alex Wilson covers the U.S. Navy and other services from Yokosuka Naval Base, Japan. Originally from Knoxville, Tenn., he holds a journalism degree from the University of North Florida. He previously covered crime and the military in Key West, Fla., and business in Jacksonville, Fla.

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