Crash prompts call from Okinawa officials to ground Kadena F-15s
CAMP FOSTER — Okinawa’s prefectural assembly unanimously adopted a resolution Monday urging the Air Force to halt all F-15 flights at Kadena Air Base until the cause of last month’s F-15 crash is determined.
“The crash took place near a fertile fishing ground, causing great threats and concerns to fishermen who work there,” the resolution states. “The aircraft could have crashed directly onto people working there, had one step gone wrong.”
On Jan. 17, an F-15C Eagle crashed within an ocean training area called Whiskey-173 about 55 miles northeast of Okinawa’s main island. The pilot, from the 44th Fighter Squadron, ejected safely.
The accident occurred amid Okinawans’ persistent concerns about military aircraft operations safety following an August 2004 Marine CH-53D helicopter crash on a university campus in Ginowan, according to the resolution.
“We cannot help but question the way the military maintain their aircraft,” it said, also citing eight crashes of F-15s in the past, including one in 1994 at a Kadena munitions storage area and another in 2002 in waters about 60 miles south of the main island.
The Air Force grounded all F-15 flights immediately after the January accident, but operations were resumed two days later.
The resolution demands suspending F-15 flights until the Air Force publicly announces the cause of the accident and takes measures to prevent recurrences. According to an assembly official, the resolution will be delivered this week to the U.S. ambassador to Japan, the commander of U.S. Forces Japan in Tokyo and U.S. military entities on Okinawa.
Kadena spokesman Lt. Col. Mike Paoli said Kadena officials expected to receive a visit from the assembly on Wednesday.
“We do that as a courtesy to demonstrate that we are not oblivious to the concerns of our neighbors,” he said. “Often, though, such a visit also provides an opportunity for us to give an insight to local officials into base operations and procedures that can be helpful for them and their constituents in understanding base activities.”