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US deploys F-16s from Germany to Kadena, Japan

An F-16CM Fighting Falcon aircraft, assigned to the 480th Fighter Squadron, taxis on the flight line at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, Jan. 11, 2023. Photo: US Air Force

US Air Force F-16C/D Fighting Falcons assigned to the 52nd Fighter Wing operating out of Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, have arrived at Kadena Air Base, Japan, where they will support the on-going phased return of Kadena’s fleet of F-15C/D Eagles to the United States.

The Fighting Falcons arrived in Japan on January 16, and will work there with F-22A Raptors deployed from the 3rd Wing, Joint Base Elmendorf Richardson, Alaska, to ensure continued steady-state fighter capabilities.

The two fighter aircraft types are replacing the F-15C/D Eagle that is being retired as part of the air force’s modernization plan. The first Eagles bid farewell to Kadena on December 1, 2022.

As the 18th Wing continues the on-going phased return of Kadena’s fleet of Eagles, the Pentagon plans to continue to maintain a steady-state fighter presence in the region by temporarily deploying newer and more advanced aircraft to backfill the F-15s as they retrograde to the United States.

Since November 4, deployed F-22s have employed their unique mix of stealth, super cruise, advanced avionics and sensor fusion capabilities to bring air dominance to the Keystone of the Pacific, augmenting the air-to-air capabilities of Kadena’s F-15 fleet. As the F-16s begin operations, they too will integrate their unique strengths to help Team Kadena deter and, if necessary, prevail over act acts of aggression that threaten peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific.

“We are excited to be here supporting our allies and partners in the Indo-Pacific region,” said Lt. Col. Shaun Loomis, 480th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron commander. “We look forward to training and operating in this uniquely complex and strategically vital region. Additionally, we are grateful for the opportunity to experience day-to-day life and local culture here in Okinawa.”

The Fighting Falcon is renowned for its fly-by-wire system, and exceptionally flexible design enabling it to excel worldwide in a range of both air-to-air and air-to-ground roles.

“These temporary deployments bring a diverse set of platforms to the region and provide the opportunity to integrate, train, and operate with our joint forces and international Allies and partners,” said Col. Henry Schantz, 18th Operations Group commander.

For decades, Kadena Air Base has served as the keystone of the Pacific. The base’s strategic position makes it a vital staging location for forces to deter regional adversaries and project US airpower throughout the Indo-Pacific.

“It is exciting to train new aircrew to operate in and around the Indo-Pacific region,” Schantz said. “The units bring their own distinct skill sets and experiences from around the globe to bolster our allies and partners while we work together to maintain a free and open Indo-Pacific.”