Lightning IIs arrive at Kadena to maintain advanced fighter presence

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Juan Torres Chardon
  • 18th Wing Public Affairs

F-35A Lightning IIs from the 355th Fighter Squadron, Eielson Air Force Base, arrived at Kadena Air Base, Japan, March 28, 2023, to ensure continuous fighter presence through the phased return of Kadena’s fleet of F-15C/D Eagles to the United States. 

While deployed to the Keystone of the Pacific, the Lightning IIs will work in conjunction with other fighter units at Kadena Air Base to ensure continued steady-state fighter capabilities in the region. 

Together the diverse array of fighters, alongside joint and allied forces strengthen operational readiness to defend Japan while ensuring a free and open Indo-Pacific through a robust presence of dynamic fighter aircraft. 

“This is the squadron’s first deployment since reaching full operating capability in February of 2023,” said Lt Col Michael Mickus, 355th FS commander. “Operating from Kadena offers the Falcon ops and maintenance an important opportunity to hone our skills and processes to execute efficiently and effectively in a sustained deployment environment while working alongside the joint force and our allies.”

During the deployment, Mickus said the F-35 squadron plans to rotate personnel and equipment to multiple operating locations in order to support the Theater Joint Force Air Component Commander and the 18th Wing while maintaining readiness for the high-end fight.  

The F-35A is the U.S. Air Force’s latest fifth-generation fighter. It is an agile, versatile, high-performance, 9g capable multirole fighter that combines stealth, sensor fusion and unprecedented situational awareness. 

This reception of newer, more advanced aircraft at Kadena ensures the 18th Wing remains postured to deliver lethal and credible airpower to ensure the defense of U.S. allies and a free and open Indo-Pacific. 

“Training in the Indo-Pacific region is a valuable opportunity for deployed units,” said Col. Henry Schantz, 18th Operations Group commander. “The units bring their own distinct skill sets and experiences from around the globe to hone their skill to address pacing threats while bolstering alliances.” 

Over the coming weeks, fighters and associated Airmen currently deployed to Kadena Air Base will begin to return to their home stations as new units arrive to take their place. 

Throughout these deployments, the 18th Wing will continue to comply with applicable bilateral agreements with the Government of Japan regarding noise abatement. All visiting aircrews are briefed on local noise abatement procedures and mission planners will continue to give due consideration to limit local impacts. 

As the 18th Wing continues the phased return of Kadena’s fleet of Eagles, the Department of Defense will maintain a steady-state fighter presence in the region by temporarily deploying newer and more advanced aircraft to backfill the F-15s as they retrograde. 

Modernizing capabilities in the Indo-Pacific theater remains a top priority. The transition to more capable aircraft at Kadena exemplifies the DOD’s continued commitment to enhancing posture while building on the strong foundation of our Alliance with Japan.