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KADENA AIR BASE, Okinawa — U.S. and Japanese jet fighters will take to the skies near Okinawa later this week in the first-ever joint exercise involving the Air Force’s F-22A Raptors.

The stealthy jets have been temporarily deployed to Kadena Air Base since February.

According to an 18th Wing spokesman at Kadena, two F-22s now deployed from Langley Air Force Base in Virginia and two F-15s based on Kadena will conduct air-to-air combat training with eight JASDF F-4s and F-15s as part of “dissimilar” aircraft combat training.

“The air-to-air training is important to enhance our relations with our host nation and a great chance for our aircrews to work with their Japanese counterparts,” said Brig. Gen. Punch Moulton, commander of the 18th Wing.

The exercise will be conducted over waters surrounding Okinawa, far from populated areas, an 18th Wing spokesman said.

Japan is particularly interested in the Raptors, which it is considering to replace its aging fleet of F-4EJ fighters, due to be scrapped beginning next year, and older F-15s models, according to the Japan Defense Ministry.

Japanese jets in the exercise are from the JASDF Naha Air Base on Okinawa and Komatsu Air Base, northwest of Tokyo, a JASDF spokesman said Tuesday.

Chiyomi Sumida contributed to this report.

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