A U.S. Air Force F-22A Raptor arrives at Kadena Air Base, Japan, March 28, 2024.

A U.S. Air Force F-22A Raptor arrives at Kadena Air Base, Japan, March 28, 2024. (Sebastian Romawac/U.S. Air Force)

This story has been corrected.

Two F-22 Raptor squadrons have landed on Okinawa as part of an Air Force plan to replace retired F-15 Eagles with frequent rotations of various fighters through the island.

The 199th and 19th Fighter Squadrons arrived at Kadena Air Base on March 28 to join other fourth- and fifth-generation fighters, including F-35A Lightning IIs, already deployed there, the Air Force announced in a press release April 5.

The Defense Department in December 2022 announced a plan to retire or reassign two squadrons of aging F-15C/Ds stationed at Kadena. Until it decides on a permanent replacement, the Air Force said it will rotate fighter squadrons through Kadena — what it calls the keystone of the Pacific — situated near Taiwan and the East and South China seas.

Since then, squadrons of Air Force F-16CM Fighting Falcons from Germany, F-35A Lightning IIs from Alaska, F-15Cs from California and Louisiana and F-15E Strike Eagles from North Carolina and Idaho have taken turns on Kadena’s flight line.

Neither the Air Force nor DOD has announced plans for a new, permanent fighter presence on Okinawa.

“Currently, no decision regarding a permanent deployment of aircraft to Kadena has been made,” Staff Sgt. Gary Hilton, spokesman for the 18th Wing, told Stars and Stripes by email Wednesday.

Nikkei Asia reported in December that the service planned a smaller number of advanced F-15EX fighters at Kadena and quoted concerns expressed by the vice chairman of the Armed Services Committee.

“I support a permanent basing of F-15EX aircraft at Kadena but am concerned about the Air Force’s initial plan to station only 36 new aircraft, replacing the 48 divested ones,” Rep. Rob Wittman, R-Va., told Nikkei for its Dec. 13 report. Wittman said he wants to see an “operational analysis” that supports the decision.

Hilton said the DOD “maintains a steady-state presence at Kadena” by deploying newer and more advanced aircraft to backfill the 48 F-15C/Ds of the 44th and 67th Fighter Squadrons previously stationed there.

“Amid an increasingly challenging strategic environment, it is vital that we continue to retain modern capabilities to ensure peace and stability across the Indo-Pacific region,” he said.

Some F-15s from Kadena went to Air National Guard units in the United States or to the Air Force boneyard at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz.

More than 100 aircraft are positioned at Kadena, either deployed or permanently stationed, all performing a wide range of functions.


A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that the 99th Fighter Squadron had arrived at Kadena. It was the 19th Fighter Squadron.
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Jonathan Snyder is a reporter at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan. Most of his career was spent as an aerial combat photojournalist with the 3rd Combat Camera Squadron at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas. He is also a Syracuse Military Photojournalism Program and Eddie Adams Workshop alumnus.

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