• An 18 Wing F-15C assigned to Kadena Air Base. 

Credit: Nigel Pittaway
    An 18 Wing F-15C assigned to Kadena Air Base. Credit: Nigel Pittaway

The United States Air Force has detailed the future of its tactical aircraft fleet in Japan. Under the plan, the US Air Force will deploy 36 F-15EX aircraft to Kadena Air Base and 48 F-35As to Misawa Air Base to replace 48 F-15C/Ds and 36 F-16CJs respectively.

Through the transition period the US Marine Corps, US Air Force and US Navy will continue to maintain a constant rotational presence at Kadena Air Base, made up of both 4th and 5th generation aircraft.

The US rotational presence at Kadena commenced in 2022 when the US Air Force began withdrawing its F-15C/Ds ahead of it deciding whether to replace them with permanently deployed fighters.

Since then, the US Air Force has deployed F-35As, F-22As, and F-16Cs to Kadena as part of the ongoing rotational deployment.

Under the newly announced plan, the number of USAF tactical aircraft stationed permanently in Japan will remain static at 84. However, the location of the largest aircraft detachment will shift North from Kadena on the island of Okinawa, to Misawa on the island of Honshū.

The US Marine Corps aviation footprint in Japan is also set to change, though details are more limited. The US Marine Corps currently has two F-35B squadrons, Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VFMA) 121 and VFMA-242, deployed at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni.

In a statement, the US Department of Defense said that the size of those detachments would change to support the US Marine Corp's needs in line with the service's ongoing force design modernisation.

“The US Marine Corps will modify the number of F-35B aircraft to support the Service's force design modernization implementation. The US Marine Corps will continue to maintain an enduring and rotational aircraft presence at MCAS Iwakuni to ensure the necessary capabilities to support the defense of Japan,” the US Department of Defense said in a statement.



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