First USAF F-15s leave Kadena as phased withdrawal effort begins

The phased withdrawal of US Air Force (USAF)-operated Boeing F-15C/D Eagles from Kadena Air Base in Okinawa, Japan, commenced on December 1, when the first eight 18th Wing aircraft departed from the base.

They initially flew to Kingsley Field Air National Guard Base (ANGB), Oregon, from where some will move on to serve with various Air National Guard (ANG) units across the continental US, while others will go to Davis-Monthan Air Force Base (AFB) in Arizona for storage with the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group (AMARG).

Kadena F-15 [USAF/Senior Airman Jessi Roth]
Airman 1st Class Zachary Warren, a crew chief with the USAF's 44th Aircraft Maintenance Unit, prepares a Boeing F-15C Eagle for departure at Kadena Air Base in Okinawa, Japan, on December 1, 2022, as the first several aircraft of the type's phased withdrawal from the base begins. USAF/Senior Airman Jessi Roth

The 18th Wing has two squadrons of F-15C/Ds - the 44th Fighter Squadron (FS) 'Vampires' and 67th FS ‘Fighting Cocks’ - with a combined total of more than 50 aircraft. They will be progressively returned to the US over the coming months as part of the USAF modernisation plan to retire the ageing F-15C/D fleet, which has been in service for more than four decades. The USAF had announced plans to withdraw the Eagles from the air arm's Pacific Air Forces (PACAF) region by 2023 in a report released on October 27. Although there is to be no permanent replacement for them, there will be regular rotational deployments of USAF fighters to ensure there is no capability gap.

In order to aid with the transition a deployment of F-22A Raptors from the 3rd Wing at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, arrived at Kadena on November 4.

The 18th Wing, originally known as the 18th Tactical Fighter Wing, received its first F-15C on September 29, 1979. The 67th Tactical Fighter Squadron was the first squadron to become fully operational with the Eagle within the PACAF command.