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F-22 Raptors now deployed to Kadena Air Base

Date Posted: 2009-01-15

A dozen of the U.S. Air Force’s most sophisticated stealth fighter aircraft are now on Okinawa, beginning a three-month deployment “to underscore the U.S. commitment to Japan as a vital regional partner.
The F-22 Raptors arrived at Kadena Air Base this past week from Langley Air Force Base, Virginia. The twelve aircraft and about 250 support personnel will spend the deployment in training exercises with American and Japanese Air Self Defense Forces. An Air Force media advisory noted the deployment “signals U.S. resolve to ensure stability and security throughout the Pacific Region. The F-22 Raptor, the most modern plane in the Air Force inventory, is to replace the F-15. F-22’s are highly maneuverable and capable of supersonic speeds, and pack sophisticated electronics gear that allow it to evade detection by enemy radars.
While many welcome the F-22, which Japan hopes to buy for its own Air Self Defense Forces, it’s not universal. Local residents and mayors of towns and villages surrounding Kadena Air Base are complaining the aircraft will bring more noise and disrupt local life. Kadena Town’s mayor was not happy “the F-22’s came flying in without listening to resident opinions,” but then said he “hoped the training will be done in a minimal way, without making any accidents.” Chatan and Okinawa City officials have also voiced displeasure at the F-22 deployment.
Masaaki Gabe, a Ryukyu University professor, says the deployment signals “America’s purpose in overseas development is to demonstrate progress in abilities that make it stronger.” He notes the U.S. is always aware of potential threats from China and North Korea, and says “if needed, this new stealth fighter can be quickly sent to the west Pacific area.”
The professor said the joint training with JASDF crews was “a good opportunity to see how strong these F-22’s are, and for this kind of training, it is only possible here, and not in Virginia.” Gabe says the F-15’s now being flown are “getting old and has to be redeemed.”

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