Thursday, December 12, 2013

Japan seeks to move E-2Cs and another F-15J squadron to Okinawa

Naha-based 204 Hikotai F-15J Eagle. USAF Photo

Japan's government has indicated that it is planning to deploy a second squadron of Mistubishi F-15J/DJ Eagles to Naha Airbase in Okinawa. In addition, it has also revealed that a squadron of E-2 Hawkeye Airborne Early Warning aircraft could also be sent there.

The base is the primary airbase which the Japan Air Self-Defense Force uses to provide overwatch for the hotly disputed Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands. As I have mentioned before, the sole JASDF F-15 unit currently based in Naha has been in the thick of the action scrambling against Chinese aircraft entering Japan's Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) while patrolling in the East China Sea, or headed out into the Western Pacific. The recent declaration of an ADIZ in the East China Sea by China would also have added impetus to this decision.

Word is that the JASDF F-15 unit that will be relocated to Naha to join the overworked 204 Hikotai will be the 304 Hikotai from Tsuiki in southern Kyushu, with an Mitsubishi F-2 unit from Misawa moving to Tsuiki to form a second F-2 Hikotai in Tsuiki.

Relocating northern Kyushu's sole interceptor unit and replacing it with a unit operating the F-2 (primarily a maritime strike platform) at a base facing a sector of the East China Sea where Chinese aircraft have been known to penetrate Japan's ADIZ from strikes me as odd. If anything, I had expected that 305 Hikotai at Hyakuri would have been the most likely candidate for the move, given it's located at Japan's quiet eastern seaboard away from the usual hotspots of Japan's ADIZ.

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