KADENA AIR BASE, Okinawa — Twelve of the Air Force’s stealthy F-22A Raptors were set to go home Thursday, completing a temporary deployment that began in February.

Kadena officials announced Wednesday that the aircraft, assigned to the 27th Fighter Squadron, have completed training and were to begin departing early in the morning. The planes are returning to their home station at Langley Air Force Base, Va.

“The early morning take-offs are operational necessities that allow pilots to land at their destination during daylight hours,” an 18th Wing statement said. “After long, over-ocean flights, daytime landings are much safer than nighttime landings and maximize pilot safety.”

Okinawan officials and the local press were notified of the unusual morning activities as a courtesy.

“These early departures are in accordance with the 1996 noise abatement agreement,” the news release stated.

While at Kadena, the Raptors, deployed outside the U.S. for the first time, conducted training that included an air-to-air combat exercise with Japan’s Air Self-Defense Force.

On Tuesday, U.S. Consulate General Kevin Maher told local reporters he would not be surprised to see the Raptors return for future temporary deployments. However, a Kadena spokesman said late Wednesday that no such deployments have been scheduled.

Japan is particularly interested in the Raptors, which it is considering to replace its aging fleet of F-4EJ and F-15 fighters.

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