At present, more than 50 F-15C/Ds are operated by the 18th Wing’s 44th Fighter Squadron (FS) ‘Vampires’ and 67th FS ‘Fighting Cocks’. As per the report released on October 27, these Eagle units will be replaced by a “rotational” force of fighters.
Both Japanese and US officials are understood to be worried that the move will create gaps in the ability of both nations to deter Chinese aggression in the region. The Kadena-based F-15C/D Eagles make up approximately half of the US fighter aircraft in Japan. The USAF will reportedly deploy Lockheed Martin F-22A Raptor fifth-generation stealth fighters from Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson (JBER) in Alaska to Kadena AB for a six-month rotation when the Eagles are removed next year.
While it plans to provide “heel-to-toe” rotations without a gap in capability, the USAF has not revealed its plans subsequent to the initial deployment. However, Air Force spokesperson Ann Stefanek said the service would “continue to maintain readiness in support of our US-Japan alliance, which is a cornerstone for security in the Indo-Pacific.” A timeline for the removal of the Kadena-based Eagles has not been announced, nor has the USAF received permission to retire the aircraft from the US Congress.