While the United States is poised to phase out its F-15 squadron in Japan, it will continue to deploy its F-15s to maintain a strong fighter presence.
A flight of F-15C Eagles from the 144th Fighter Wing stationed at Fresno Air Base in California touched down at Kadena Air Base in Japan earlier this month, the United States Air Force reported.
The F-15C Eagles will be working closely with a diverse array of heavy, reconnaissance, and fighter aircraft assets, including fourth and fifth-generation aircraft stationed at Kadena Air Base. This collaborative effort aims to maintain a consistent and enduring regional fighter capability.
The US Air Force emphasized the importance of this joint effort, stating:
“Together, the diverse array of fighters, alongside joint and allied forces, strengthen operational readiness to defend Japan while ensuring a free and open Indo-Pacific through a robust presence of dynamic fighter aircraft.”
Meanwhile, Lt. Col. Jon Vanbragt, the commander of the 144th Operations Group, expressed the squadron’s eagerness to train and collaborate with Team Kadena and their bilateral partners. He highlighted the vast opportunities presented by operating in the Indo-Pacific, not only for their airmen but also for their allies to enhance partnerships and refine tactics.
This deployment comes as two F-15C/D squadrons based at Kadena Air Base in Okinawa are being phased out over two years and replaced by rotating squadrons from various locations, including as far away as Alaska.
The United States has been actively deploying F-35s, F-22 Raptor stealth fighters, and F-16 Fighting Falcons on a rotational basis in Japan over the past few months.
Enhanced Flexibility for Defense Readiness
The arrival of the F-15C Eagles at Kadena Air Base further enhances the flexibility of the 18th Wing, which serves as the host wing for Kadena Air Base in Okinawa, Japan.
This flexibility is crucial for operating in dynamic airspace and operational areas, ensuring that the United States, Japan, and their allied partners remain in a state of readiness to provide robust and credible air superiority.
Ultimately, this bolsters the defense of US allies and promotes a free and open Indo-Pacific region.
However, experts have noted that the decision to retire Kadena’s two permanent F-15 squadrons is influenced, at least in part, by concerns over China’s substantial arsenal of long-range precision missiles, which have the capability to effectively target Okinawa.
US-Japan Alliance: A Commitment to Regional Security and Prosperity
During a high-level meeting early this month, Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III reaffirmed the “ironclad” commitment of the United States to defend all of Japan, including disputed territories like the Senkaku Islands, as outlined in Article V of the Japan-US Security Treaty.
These islands, contested by China, have been a focal point of regional tension.
“We support your government’s bold decisions to invest in advanced capabilities including counterstrike, and to increase defense spending to two percent of Japan’s gross domestic product by 2027,” Austin remarked.
Both nations celebrated the strengthening of their historic alliance, with Japan making significant investments in advanced capabilities and defense spending. They acknowledged common challenges, including China’s assertiveness, North Korea’s provocations, and Russia’s actions in Ukraine.
The US and Japan share a vision for a free and open Indo-Pacific and are enhancing their military posture and fostering stronger ties with regional allies, such as South Korea. Trilateral cooperation is a priority, with a focus on mutual defense, combined exercises, and shared missile warning data.
Japan’s efforts to collaborate more closely with partners like Australia were praised, illustrating the growing web of regional partnerships among like-minded nations.
Defense Minister Minoru Kihara expressed Japan’s determination to enhance its defense capabilities and its deep gratitude for the US’s unwavering commitment to Japan’s security.
Taiwan Urges Swift US Weapon Deliveries, Enhanced Self-Sufficiency
In other news, Taiwan’s Vice-Minister for Defense, Hsu Yen-pu, has urgently called on the US to expedite crucial weaponry deliveries in light of the escalating military threat from China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA).
Hsu emphasized the need for Taiwan to achieve military self-reliance, particularly given its vulnerable island geography.
During the US-Taiwan Defense Industry Conference, held behind closed doors in Virginia, Hsu also urged the US to support the establishment of a self-sustaining system in Taiwan, overseeing the complete life cycle of certain American-purchased weapons.
Vice Defense Minister Hsu Yen-pu (徐衍璞) called on the United States on Monday at the annual US-Taiwan Defense Industry Conference to help Taiwan beef up its military self-reliance and speed up deliveries of weapons ordered by the country. https://t.co/8hkLh8neYV
— Focus Taiwan (CNA English News) (@Focus_Taiwan) October 3, 2023
Acknowledging the urgency due to the Russian-Ukraine war, Hsu highlighted Taiwan’s consistent appeals to the US, particularly for Stinger portable air-defense missiles.
He further emphasized that adopting Total Life Cycle Systems Management (TLCSM) could significantly enhance Taiwan’s defense self-sufficiency by involving more local defense companies in production and maintenance services.
These calls come amidst ongoing tensions in the Taiwan Strait, with China increasing its military presence in the region.
The deployment of F-15C Eagles to Japan underscores the unwavering commitment of the United States to strengthen regional defense capabilities and maintain a robust fighter presence in the Indo-Pacific. The evolving geopolitical landscape, marked by China’s assertiveness and regional tensions, necessitates a strategic reevaluation of defense arrangements and self-sufficiency.