An F-15E Strike Eagle assigned to the 391st Fighter Squadron lands at Kadena Air Base, Okinawa, April 22, 2023.

An F-15E Strike Eagle assigned to the 391st Fighter Squadron lands at Kadena Air Base, Okinawa, April 22, 2023. (Micaiah Anthony/U.S. Air Force)

A second batch of U.S.-based F-15E Strike Eagles have rotated into Kadena Air Base on Okinawa as part of a two-year plan to replace the installation’s aging F-15 fighters with a superior rotational force.

An unknown number of Strike Eagles began arriving April 22 from the 391st Fighter Squadron of Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho, an 18th Wing statement said that day. The aircraft continued to trickle into the strategic air base through May 9, a spokesman from Japan’s Ministry of Defense told Stars and Stripes by email Friday.

The Idaho F-15Es join a group of Strike Eagles that arrived April 8 from Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, N.C.; F-35A Lightning II stealth fighters from Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska; and Kadena’s remaining F-15C/D Eagles.

“In coordination with our allies and partners, the Bold Tigers are here to support the 18th Wing to project decisive airpower as well as reinforce regional stability and security,” Lt. Col. Jeremiah King, 391st Fighter Squadron commander, said in the statement.

The Air Force is just over a quarter of the way into a 24-month plan to replace its aging F-15 fighters at Kadena with rotating squadrons of more advanced warplanes. Some F-15s went to Air National Guard units in the United States or to the Air Force boneyard at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Arizona.

There are now 22 Strike Eagles, 12 F-35As and an unknown number of F-15s at the base, the ministry spokesman said. The stealth fighters arrived March 28.

The Air Force does not release the number of deployed aircraft due to operational security. Some government officials in Japan speak to the media on condition of anonymity as a requirement of their positions.

The Air Force on Oct. 28 announced plans to replace 48 Eagles from the 44th and 67th Fighter Squadrons with rotating units of more advanced aircraft.

About a dozen F-22 Raptors from Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, arrived in early November and a dozen F-16CM Fighting Falcons arrived in January from Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany.

Those aircraft have since departed.

The Strike Eagle – first delivered for testing in 1988 - is a dual-role fighter developed to meet Air Force needs for a jet that could effectively engage enemy targets on the ground, the Boeing website said. It can carry 23,000 pounds of weapons and is outfitted with advanced navigation and infrared targeting systems, allowing the fighter to fly at low altitude and high speeds at night or in inclement weather.

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Keishi Koja is an Okinawa-based reporter/translator who joined Stars and Stripes in August 2022. He studied International Communication at the University of Okinawa and previously worked in education.
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Matthew M. Burke has been reporting from Grafenwoehr, Germany, for Stars and Stripes since 2024. The Massachusetts native and UMass Amherst alumnus previously covered Okinawa, Sasebo Naval Base and Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan, for the news organization. His work has also appeared in the Boston Globe, Cape Cod Times and other publications.

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