Temporary Repairs Vs. Permanent Fixes In Japanese Home Insurance Claims – A report indicates that the Air Force plans to replace its only Kadena fighters with a rotary fighter detachment beginning in 2023.
The US Air Force’s only overseas F-15C/D Eagle units, at Kadena Air Base on the Japanese island of Okinawa, are to be withdrawn next year, according to a report today in the
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. The removal of existing permanent units under the 18th Wing would be replaced by the detachment of rotary fighters. Unsurprisingly, the news has already attracted criticism as a step back at a time when Chinese military power and political ambitions are expanding in the region.
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“The message to China is that the United States is not serious about reversing the decline in its military forces,” said David Deptula, former Vice Commander, Pacific Air Forces, and a retired F-15 pilot. by the
A US Air Force F-15 Eagle crew chief from the 67th Aircraft Maintenance Unit watches pre-flight procedures and communicates with the plane’s pilot before take off at Kadena Air Base, Japan. US Air Force photo by Senior Airman Maeson L. Elleman/Released
According to the report, which cites “six people familiar with the situation,” the decision to pull the F-15C/Ds from Kadena appears to have been based on the age of the jets before – older soldiers and is considered part of a “wider modernization programme. .” It may also be linked to plans to cut planned purchases of F-15EX Eagle II fighter jets down to 80 from the original projected total of at least 144. The first ‘legacy’ US Air Force Eagles arrived at Kadena in September 1979 and the type has been present at the base ever since.
As we have discussed in the past, it was previously unclear what would happen to the two F-15C/D equipped squadrons at Kadena – the 44th Fighter Squadron (FS) “Vampires” and 67th FS “Fighting Cocks”.
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However, Kadena had already been earmarked as the preferred F-15EX recipient, by Pacific Air Force chief Gen. Kenneth Wilsbach. Wilsbach said he wants to see the Eagle II replace the two squadrons of F-15C/Ds currently operating from the base.
“What we’re looking to use there, if we’re lucky enough to get that replacement, is air superiority and some long-range weapons capabilities that you can maintain on the F-15EX,” Wilsbach explained at a Mitchell Institute event for Aerospace Studies in March this year.
Gen. U.S. Air Force Ken Wilsbach, left, commander of the Pacific Air Force, poses for a photo with German Air Force Lt. Gen. Ingo Gerhartz, center, Chief of the Air Force, and Royal Australian Air Force Air Marshal Robert Chipman, right, Air Chief, at RAAF Base Darwin, Australia, in September 2022. US Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Savannah L. Waters
With the Air Force’s original plan to buy at least 144 F-15EXs, that would have provided for a one-for-one replacement of the Eagles currently assigned to five Air National Guard squadrons, as well as one in acting as a schoolhouse for the entire service for this type. , along with additional airframes for testing and development purposes. It would probably have been possible to replace the Eagles at Kadena as well, as one of those Guard units (Florida) is switching to the F-35A stealth jet.
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But with F-15EX numbers now likely to drop to 80 jets, hopes of bringing the jets to Kadena have dwindled. As we have explored in the past, this reduction in numbers could have significant impacts on other F-15C/D units as well, some of which may eventually move to fully non-flying roles.
The first F-15EX for the US Air Force arrives at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, in March 2021. US Air Force Photo/1st Lt. Karissa Rodriguez
Rotational detachments of fighter squadrons are a familiar part of the Air Force’s operational posture in the Asia-Pacific and European theaters, as well as in combat zones.
But the particular tensions that currently exist in the Asia Pacific region make the decision to withdraw two active fighter squadrons from Okinawa particularly controversial.
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, some officials in the Japanese government and the Pentagon have voiced concern that the move “will send a dangerous signal to China about restraint.”
For those worried about removing a permanent US combatant presence from Okinawa, there is one item of possible hope in the article. He notes that “the Air Force does not intend to replace [the Kadena F-15C/Ds] with a permanent presence in the near term.” This seems to leave the possibility of permanently stationing other fighters there later, perhaps after purchasing an F-15EX aircraft later, or even a completely different type of aircraft.
There is no indication that any other elements of the 18th Kadena Wing are currently under threat, although a reduction in KC-135R aerial refueling capacity may accompany the removal of the two Eagle squadrons. In addition to the KC-135R squadron, Kadena is also home to squadrons of E-3 AWACS radar aircraft, RC-135 intelligence gathering aircraft, MC-130J special operations transports, and HH-60G search and rescue combat helicopters.
Twelve US Air Force KC-135R Stratotankers from the 909th Air Refueling Squadron taxi to the runway during an exercise at Kadena Air Base. US Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Marcus Morris
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There are other US Air Force fighter jets elsewhere in Japan, with two squadrons of F-16s at Misawa Air Base on the main island of Honshu. However, removing the Eagles would roughly halve the service’s fighter strength in Japan, while the F-15 offers high-end, long-range air superiority expertise not shared with the Viper. With Chinese military aircraft increasingly active in airspace around Taiwan, as well as venturing further afield over the South China Sea and East China Sea, this type of capability is particularly important. Another major factor in this context is the special relevance of the F-15 in cruise missile defense, which is a huge and growing problem in the region. The Misawa F-16s, and others without an active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar, offer much less capability in this regard.
Four 13th Fighter Squadron F-16CMs from Misawa Air Base escort the aircraft carrier USSTheodore Roosevelt during a mission over the South China Sea in April 2021.U.S. Navy/Mass Communications Specialist 3rd Class Carlos W. Hopper
With that in mind, perhaps it’s no surprise that the new plan for Kadena involves sending a sixth-month group of F-22 stealth fighters to the base, once the F-15s leave it. The Raptors would come from Elmendorf Air Force Base in Alaska, also under the Pacific Air Forces.
As the Air Force’s primary air superiority fighter, the F-22 is the obvious choice to replace the F-15C/D in Okinawa. However, it is not yet clear what will happen after this first six-month rotation. With their production run cut short, F-22s are extremely rare across the Air Force and are in demand for regular and standby deployments around the world.
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Currently, Alaska’s F-22s are being temporarily sent to Poland, amid tensions with Russia over Ukraine. The readiness rate of the F-22s is also relatively poor; generally, about 50 percent are fully capable of mission at any given time. This is made worse by the fact that the force only has about 125 combat-coded F-22 aircraft, with many of the other 55 or so jets not fully combat capable and being used for training and test work . On top of all this, the Air Force wants to retire all the F-22s that have not been upgraded while some in Congress want to upgrade them to front line capability at a relatively huge cost.
An F-22 assigned to the 90th Fighter Squadron, 3rd Wing, Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska lands at RAF Lakenheath, England, in July 2022, for a stopover before rotating to Poland . US Air Force photo by Airman Selenena Muhammad-Ali
Obviously, maintaining non-stop F-22 rotations to Kadena is questionable, but sending temporary squadrons of fighters of any type to Okinawa in the longer term will put a significant strain on the wider Air Force – as well as the aircraft and the personnel involved. in those specific assignments. Although there is an argument that rotational detachments may have some benefits in terms of efficiency, through greater cohesion, they also lack the advantage of local knowledge enjoyed by a permanent unit. A unit that is on the spot knows the area and the threats and is also likely to have trained extensively with local police forces, building long-term relationships in the process.
Equally worrying are reports that the Air Force has so far “not worked out future rotations,” beyond the first use of Raptors. We have contacted the Air Force for further clarification of these plans.
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Indeed, although the aspiration appears to be to have ‘heel-to-toe’ rotations — with one fighter squadron arriving at Kadena as another departs — Deptula, speaking to the
“They won’t have a heel in place,” Deptula said. “That’s why they do rotation. You could supplement by rotating F-22s there to help close that gap, but that [then] emphasizes that force.”
Lt. Gen. David Deptula, then Air Force deputy chief of staff for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (right), and his son Captain David Deptula, an F-15 pilot with the 67th Fighter Squadron, prepare to fly in Kadena Air Base, in 2008. General Deptula himself flew with the 67th FS from 1979 to
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