Kadena F-15s still grounded as Mo. crash probe continues
The fleet of F-15s at Kadena Air Base, Okinawa, remains grounded indefinitely as the Air Force continues looking into the crash of a Missouri F-15 fighter jet earlier this month, U.S. Forces Japan officials said Thursday.
Kadena’s 18th Wing has about 50 F-15 C and D models of the twin-engine jet, but none have flown in the 12-day joint and bilateral Keen Sword exercise, which was set to end Friday.
No F-15s are assigned elsewhere in Japan or South Korea.
All F-15 flights were suspended shortly after the Nov. 2 crash of an Air National Guard F-15C during training in Missouri.
The Air Force, however, is returning F-15E model aircraft to flying status upon completion of individual 13-hour inspections.
According to Air Combat Command, the Air Force’s 224 E-model aircraft, which are newer and make up a third of the entire F-15 fleet, will undergo a one-time inspection of hydraulic system lines; the longerons, which are the molded, metal strips of the aircraft fuselage running from front to rear; and straps and skin panels in and around the environmental control system bay.
As each F-15E model aircraft is inspected and cleared, it will return to full operational status, Air Combat Command officials said.
“The remainder of F-15 variants worldwide remain grounded until the Air Force announces otherwise,” said Air Force Col. Eric Schnaible, a USFJ spokesman at Yokota Air Base, Japan.
The crash was the second involving a Missouri Air National Guard F-15 this year. The pilot was taking part in a dog-fighting exercise at speeds up to 500 mph when the accident occurred. He ejected safely and suffered only minor injuries.
The mishap remains under investigation, according to Air Combat Command. However, the Air Force has acknowledged the plane suffered structural problems and broke apart in flight.
After E-model safety evaluations are wrapped up, the remaining aircraft in the F-15 fleet face a similar analysis and inspection process before other flights resume, Air Combat Command said.
The Air Force purchased its last F-15 in 2004 and plans to eventually replace the fighter jet with the F-22, which has yet to be deployed on combat missions.