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F-22 Raptors stir community wrath

Date Posted: 2007-03-02

“It’s enough for residents! No more war games!”

That is the cry of Kadena Town Assembly members protesting the temporary assignment of America’s new, high technology jet fighter aircraft to Kadena Air Base. The F-22 Raptors, which can fly at 1,600 miles per hour while maintaining a minimal stealth picture to enemy radars, are here from Langley Air Force Base, Virginia for training.

Kadena Town doesn’t like it, and is demanding the planes be immediately sent home. The Assembly, expressing fears the F-22’s could become a permanent part of the U.S. Air Force arsenal at Kadena Air Base, charges the fighters are “giving too much loud noise to residents already, and training with other jets here will make even more noise damage.”

The noise issue has been a difficult one between Kadena Town and the Air Force for many months. A recent survey with Kadena Town residents showed 95% of the 300 households just outside the base complaining of suffering. Ringing ears were cited by 43% of the respondents, while 28% said they suffered hearing loss from the jet noises.

Kadena Municipal Government conducted the study May ~ December of last year. Frequent resident complaints centered on loss of sleep after being awakened by night flight operations, and having to wear ear plugs in order to sleep.

Prior to the study, Naha District Court had granted compensation totaling ¥2.8 billion for noise distress to Kadena residents. The court refused, however, to ban night flight operations by the U.S. Air Force at Kadena.

The Air Force has steadfastly maintained the Raptors are on Okinawa for a 3-4 months training cycle, the new fighter’s first deployment outside the United States, and that there are no plans for stationing the sophisticated plane at Kadena Air Base. Kadena Town’s Assembly is not trusting those statements, and has passed a resolution calling for the F-22’s “immediate removal from Okinawa.” Copies of that resolution have been sent to both Japan’s Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, and Minister of Defense Fumio Kyuma, American Consul General Kevin Maher in Naha City, and to U.S. Ambassador to Japan J. Thomas Schieffer.

“We want everyone to listen about Kadena Town peoples’ spirits,” says Kouei Tanaka, Kadena Town’s Base Measures Special Section Director. “We want to show everyone what our people think.” Tanaka says Kadena Town residents only want a peaceful life.

The military affairs leader notes Kadena and other American military units on Okinawa have seemingly picked up the training and operations tempo recently, with the assignment of Patriot missile units, diving training and other war game exercises.

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