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Up to 26 F-35Bs to be deployed to Kadena base

  • December 2, 2017
  • , Akahata , Lead story
  • JMH Translation

The U.S. Marine Corps plans to deploy a total of up to 26 F-35B stealth fighter jets to the U.S. Air Force’s Kadena base, straddling Kadena town and some other municipalities in Okinawa Prefecture, Akahata learned. The F-35B is the next generation mainstay fighter model. Akahata further learned that the USMC also plans to conduct training in a wide-ranging area surrounding the island prefecture. Such a plan is not written in agreements between Japan and the U.S., which shows the U.S. still regards Okinawa as its colony where the U.S. has a free hand in doing anything at its discretion.


The plan is written in the “consolidated natural resources and cultural resources management plan” (April 2014), an internal document obtained under the Freedom of Information Act by the “Center for Biological Diversity,” a U.S. nongovernmental organization. The document was made by the headquarters of the Marine Corps Forces, Pacific in Okinawa.


The document notes that “the U.S. Marine Corps will deploy a total of up to 26 F-35Bs to Kadena at any time” when F/A-18 Hornets stationed at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni and de facto Kadena-based AV-8B Harriers will be replaced by F-35Bs in the 2017 U.S. fiscal year (October 2016 – September 2017). The document adds, “F-35Bs will fly Okinawa’s existing military airspace, conduct training at Ie jima (an island off the main island of Okinawa Prefecture),will be occasionally operated at Marine Corps Air Station Futenma and use facilities at Marine Corps Base Smedley D. Butler in Okinawa.


The U.S. Department of Defense has not announced a permanent deployment of F-35Bs to Kadena, but it has already used its FY2015 budget for the construction of F-35 hangars and parking areas on the Kadena base, which seems to have been completed. In addition, construction is currently underway at the Ie jima Auxiliary Airfield to expand the training facility for the F-35B’s vertical takeoff and landing practice.


Sixteen F-35Bs have already been deployed to the Iwakuni base. It is assumed that the U.S. Marine Corps plans to conduct large-scale operations and exercises in Okinawa with F-35Bs from Iwakuni and the U.S. mainland. This is a significant base buildup based on the integration of F-35 units between the Japanese mainland and Okinawa.


The U.S. military is developing and deploying three types of F-35 as the follow-on mainstay fighter: (1) F-35A for the U.S. Air Force; (2) F-35B for the U.S. Marine Corps that can vertically take off and land; and (3) F-35C for the U.S. Navy to be carrier-based.


In November, the U.S. Air Force temporarily deployed 12 F-35As to the Kadena base. The noise pollution caused by this deployment is becoming serious. According to the Kadena town office, the Yara aircraft noise monitoring station near the Kadena base runway measured aircraft noise exceeding 100 decibel nine times in November, including 103.6 decibel at most, although the station did not measure noise exceeding 100 decibel in October.

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