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Kadena jets exercise on Japan mainland

Date Posted: 2007-03-08

Fighter aircraft based at Kadena Air Base are winding up a three-day exercise today on the Japanese mainland.

The five F-15 fighters are in Tsuiki in Fukuoka Prefecture, conducting aerial dogfight training together with Japanese Air Self Defense Force fighters. Officials say the action centers around the Goto Islands in Nagasaki Prefecture. It is the first time since 2002 that U.S. and Self Defense Forces conducted joint training at the mainland installation.

The exercises come as part of a deal between the U.S. and Japanese governments to reduce the exercise and noise burdens on Okinawa that come as part of routine training exercises. The training scenarios are often noisy, raising complaints from Okinawa residents.

The agreement moves exercises from Kadena, as well as joint bases in Misawa in Aomori Prefecture and Iwakuni, in Yamaguchi Prefecture, to a set of Self Defense Force bases. A government spokesman says more than a dozen, perhaps as many as 15, joint exercises will be conducted this year.

The six bases chosen for the training are at Chitose in Hokkaido, Hyakuri in Ibaraki, Komatsu in Ishikawa, Tsuiki, and Nyutabaru in Miyazaki Prefecture. The final agreements clearing the way for joint training exercises were signed only a week ago with the Fukuoka Regional Defense Facilities Administration Bureau.

No flight training is taking place at night, or in the pre-dawn hours to avoid disruption of local life. Japanese government officials are working closely with the U.S. military to insure a smooth transition to the new training locations.

Anti-military groups are still unhappy with the new training, insisting it will not reduce the burden on Okinawa’s citizens. They point to the arrival of U.S. Air Force stealth fighters to Kadena last month, increasing the noise levels. Twelve F-22 Raptor aircraft from Langley Air Force Base in Virginia, the military’s newest and most sophisticated fighter, are schedule for 3-4 months deployment to Kadena.

It is the first time the F-22 has operated outside the U.S.

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