• Defense & Security

‘World’s strongest fighter jet’ heading for Kadena Air Base

Reuters file photo
A U.S. F-22 fighter jet taxis at a Polish Air Force base in Lask, near Lodz, central Poland August 31, 2015.

The U.S. military is considering gradually retiring F-15 fighter jets stationed at its Kadena Air Base in Okinawa Prefecture and replacing them with enhanced fighters over about two years, according to Japanese Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada.

F-22s are scheduled to be provisionally deployed to Kadena from the beginning of this month, in place of the retiring F-15s. The United States is believed to be aiming to counter China and Russia, both of which are heightening their air forces’ activities in the Asian region.

Hamada welcomed the U.S. plan at a press conference Tuesday.

“This is an important endeavor for the Japan-U.S. alliance, as it will be part of efforts to maintain and strengthen the deterrence and response capabilities of the alliance to cope with the increasingly severe security environment,” Hamada said.

According to the Defense Ministry, there are currently about 50 F-15s deployed at the base. The planes have aged so the U.S. military is moving forward with a plan to replace them with improved models, and will begin by returning a dozen or so to the United States within a few weeks. F-22s of the same size will be provisionally deployed for about six months in their place.

The F-22 has been called “the world’s most powerful fighter jet” because of its stealth features, which make it difficult for enemy radar to detect, as well as its supersonic cruising and air-to-air combat capabilities. Once deployed, the F-22s are expected to take place in joint drills with the aircraft of Japan’s Air Self-Defense Force.

Chinese Xian H-6 bombers and Russian Tu-95 bombers have conducted joint flights in areas around Japan regularly since 2019, and Chinese warplanes have frequently flown back and forth between Okinawa’s main island and Miyako Island.

“The provisional deployment of the F-22s and the enhanced abilities of the F-15s will greatly strengthen our deterrence,” a Japanese government official said.