Library Fact Sheets
KADENA AIR BASE|
Printable Fact Sheet
Kadena Air Base, known as the "Keystone of the Pacific" because of its strategic location on Okinawa, Japan is the largest Air Force installation in the Pacific region and home to the 18th Wing, the largest combat air wing in the Air Force. The Wing and 40 tenant units represent six Air Force major commands, and elements of the U.S. Army, Navy and Marine Corps, which form "Team Kadena."
A Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security, signed in 1960, sets the parameters of U.S.-Japan bilateral engagement. The treaty allows U.S. forces to use facilities and areas in Japan in order to contribute to the defense of Japan and to help preserve regional peace and security. Kadena Air Base supports these strategic objectives by providing a responsive staging and operational air base with integrated, deployable, forward-based airpower.
Kadena's central location also enables it to serve as a staging base for humanitarian and disaster-relief efforts throughout the western Pacific, as it did in the aftermath of the December 2004 tsunami that devastated several Asian countries, including Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia and Sri Lanka. Additionally, Kadena is one of seven bases in Japan that fly the United Nations flag as part of the United Nations Command Rear (UNC). In this capacity, Kadena's main role is to provide facilities for UNC aircraft.
Kadena's current fleet of aircraft represents a broad spectrum of combat capability. The 18th Wing flies F-15C/D air-to-air fighters, KC-135 refueling tankers, E-3 AWACS airborne command and control aircraft, and HH-60 Pavehawk combat search and rescue helicopters. Air Force Special Operations Command's 353rd Special Operations Group operates MC-130P refueling aircraft and MC-130H aircraft which provide infiltration, exfiltration and resupply of special operations forces and equipment in hostile or denied territory. Air Combat Command operates RC-135 reconnaissance aircraft and WC-135 atmospheric collection aircraft out of Kadena.
In addition, the U.S. Navy operates a detachment of P-3 maritime reconnaissance and anti-submarine warfare planes. This robust array of aircraft, combined with Kadena's strategic location, allows the base to deter potential threats and respond quickly to any contingency.
More than 7,500 military members are assigned to Kadena. The base population totals more than 20,000 people including active-duty military, Department of Defense civilians, families, and Japanese civilian workers and contractors. The main base covers 4,930 acres and, together with an additional 6,280-acre munitions storage area, the installation's size totals more than 11,000 acres. Kadena has two parallel, 12,100-foot (3,690-meter) runways, more than 1,000 industrial buildings, 1,550 housing-related structures, 15 protective aircraft shelters and 25 security revetments.
The base contributes significantly to Okinawa's economy, with an annual impact estimated at $700 million. This includes salaries of local employees, rent for off-base housing and contracts with local companies. Additionally, more than 7,000 Japanese citizens who own land on Kadena receive land-lease payments from the Government of Japan.
Major Units and Weapon Systems
18th Operations Group
- 44th Fighter Squadron - F-15C/D Eagle
- 67th Fighter Squadron - F-15C/D Eagle
- 909th Air Refueling Squadron - KC-135 Stratotanker
- 961st Airborne Air Control Squadron - E-3 AWACS
- 33rd Rescue Squadron - HH-60 Pave Hawk
- 31st Rescue Squadron
- 18th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron
- 18th Operations Support Squadron
- 623rd Air Control Flight
18th Maintenance Group
- 18th Maintenance Operations Squadron
- 18th Equipment Maintenance Squadron
- 18th Munitions Squadron
- 18th Component Maintenance Squadron
- 18th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron
- 718th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron
18th Mission Support Group
- 18th Force Support Squadron
- 18th Communications Squadron
- 18th Security Forces Squadron
- 18th Logistics Readiness Squadron
- 18th Contracting Squadron
18th Civil Engineer Group
- 18th Civil Engineer Squadron
- 718th Civil Engineer Squadron
18th Medical Group
- 18th Aerospace Medicine Squadron
- 18th Dental Squadron
- 18th Medical Support Squadron
- 18th Medical Operations Squadron
U.S. Air Force Tenant Units
- 353rd Special Operations Group (Air Force Special Operations Command)
-- 1st Special Operations Squadron - MC-130H Combat Talon
-- 17th Special Operations Squadron -- MC-130P Combat Shadow
-- 320th Special Tactics Squadron
-- 353rd Maintenance Squadron
-- 353rd Operations Support Squadron
- 82nd Reconnaissance Squadron - RC-135 Rivet Joint (Air Combat Command)
- 390th Intelligence Squadron (ACC)
- 733rd Air Mobility Squadron (Air Mobility Command)
U.S. Navy Tenant Units
- Commander Fleet Activities Okinawa (CFAO)
- Patrol and Reconnaissance Wing One - P-3 Orion
U.S. Army Tenant Units
- 1-1 Air Defense Artillery Battalion - Patriot Advanced Capability-3 Air Defense System
The history of Kadena Air Base began during World War II, when the Japanese military constructed a small airfield near the village of Kadena. On 1 April 1945, U.S. troops captured the airfield at the beginning of the Battle of Okinawa, which lasted almost three months. U.S. aircraft started operations from Kadena airfield several days later. In July, Okinawa-based air operations fell under the command of the Eighth Air Force when its commander, Lt. Gen. James Doolittle established a command post at nearby Yontan airfield. The 316th Bombardment Wing arrived at Kadena airfield the following month.
On 9 August 1945, a B-29 bomber named "Bockscar" landed on Okinawa after dropping the atomic bomb "Fat Man" on the Japanese city of Nagasaki. The commander of the aircraft, Maj. Charles Sweeney, met with General Doolittle, explaining that the bomber crew had just completed a top secret mission and landed on Okinawa in order to refuel en route to the island of Tinian. General Doolittle deduced the nature of the mission and appreciated the significance of talking with the commander of a bomber crew that may have expedited the end of World War II.
Five days after the Japanese government formally surrendered to the Allies aboard the USS Missouri, the last remnants of the Japanese Okinawa garrison officially capitulated to U.S. forces on 7 September 1945. With General Doolittle in attendance, Gen Joseph Stilwell and the commanders of the Japanese Imperial Army signed a surrender document in a ceremony held at what is now the Stearley Heights area of Kadena Air Base.
The 316th Bombardment Wing inactivated at in June 1948. From that time until 1955, the overall management of what was by then called Kadena Air Force Base fell into the hands of a series of airbase groups and wings. The base also served as the headquarters for the Thirteenth Air Force (1948-1949) and the Twentieth Air Force (1949-1955).
The 19th Bombardment Group moved to Kadena from Guam shortly after the Korean War began in June 1950. In August 1950, Strategic Air Command's 307th Bomb Group moved to Kadena from what was then MacDill Field, Fla. An additional group, the 22nd Bomb Group, was already on Kadena from World War II. All three groups flew the B-29 Superfortress during the war.
These bomber groups transferred from Kadena after the Korean War, with the last leaving in October 1954. November 1954 brought the arrival of the 18th Fighter-Bomber Wing with the F-86 Sabrejets of the 12th, 44th, and 67th Fighter-Bomber Squadrons from the Philippines to Kadena. Shortly afterward, the 313th Air Division replaced the Twentieth Air Force in March 1955.
The 15th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron, part of the 67th Tactical Reconnaissance Wing at Yokota Air Base, Japan, arrived on Kadena August 1956 with RF-84F Thunderstreak aircraft. Two years later the squadron received the RF-101C Voodoo. Flying at 1,000 mph, the Voodoo was the world's first supersonic photo-reconnaissance plane. The squadron was attached to what was by then called the 18th Tactical Fighter Wing in March 1960 and retained this assignment until 1989.
Several varieties of Air Force assets appeared on Okinawa throughout the 1960s. Kadena was headquarters for the 498th Tactical Missile Group from 1961 until 1969. The group employed 32 Mace cruise missiles at four sites around Okinawa. During the Vietnam War, Kadena hosted B-52 Stratofortess bombers participating in operations Arc Light and Linebacker, along with A-12 Oxcart and SR-71 Blackbird reconnaissance aircraft.
Significant changes affected the American military presence on Okinawa during the early 1970s. On 21 April 1971, Kadena became the only U.S. Air Force installation on Okinawa when the 51st Fighter Interceptor Wing inactivated at Naha Air Base approximately 20 miles south of Kadena. The following year, sovereignty over the Ryukyu island chain reverted to the Government of Japan on 15 May 1972, transferring Naha Air Base to the Japanese Air Self-Defense Force. In the wake of this transfer, the U.S. Navy moved its flight operations from Naha to Kadena.
Pacific Air Forces (PACAF) established the Noncommissioned Officer (NCO) Professional Military Education (PME) school at Kadena in 1977, with the first class graduating in April. The Kadena-based academy alleviated the need to send NCO-selects back to the United States for training. The first female students of the school graduated in 1979. Kadena's role as a learning center for PACAF expanded in February 2000 with the establishment of a First Term Airmen's Center, the first of its kind in the major command.
In May 1981, 11 Japanese commercial airliners landed at Kadena due to heavy fog at Naha International Airport. This event had been unprecedented in the history of the base. The assistance rendered by Kadena personnel in facilitating the safe landing of so many Japanese civilian aircraft helped instill an atmosphere of cooperation between the United States and its host country.
A sweeping Air Force reorganization that took place in October 1991 affected Kadena when many units were realigned, redesignated or inactivated. The inactivation of the 313th Air Division transferred the ownership of all assets on Kadena to the 18th Tactical Fighter Wing. Moreover, the Wing greatly expanded its mission when it acquired diverse squadrons, including the 909th Air Refueling Squadron, the 961st Airborne Warning and Control Squadron (now the 961st Airborne Air Control Squadron), and the 623rd Air Control Squadron (now re-designated as a flight). Thus, the host unit of Kadena was renamed the 18th Wing.
The 18th Wing became even larger and more composite in February 1993, when it received the 33rd Rescue Squadron. The 31st Rescue Squadron and the 18th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron joined the Wing ten years later. The 353rd Special Operations Group transferred to Kadena as a tenant unit in February 1992 after departing the Philippines due to the eruption of Mount Pinatubo.
Significant events occurred at Kadena in the wake of the new millennium. President Bill Clinton arrived on the base in July 2000 to attend the Group of Eight (G8) Summit held at Nago City. A Kadena-based Navy EP-3 flying a reconnaissance mission near China was struck by a Chinese fighter jet in April 2001, resulting in the Navy crew making an emergency landing at Hainan Island, People's Republic of China, where the crew and aircraft were detained for 11 days.
Kadena Air Base has been the staging point for numerous humanitarian and disaster-relief efforts, including the deployment of dentists to war-torn East Timor in November 2000, flood relief for the Philippines in December 2004 and aid after the tsunami that devastated parts of Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and Sri Lanka that same month. Relief efforts were also staged from Kadena after mudslides in the Philippines in February 2006.
A U.S.-Japan Security Consultative Committee plan resulted in the US Army's 1-1 Air Defense Artillery Battalion moving to Kadena in October 2006 to provide a missile defense system protecting the interests of both countries. The following year, twelve of the Air Force's new F-22A Raptor aircraft made history by coming to Kadena for their first overseas deployment in February 2007 where they trained with Kadena Airmen and airmen from the Japan Air Self Defense Force
18th Wing Public Affairs
Unit 5141 Box 30
APO AP 96368
634-1509; DSN: 315-634-1509; International: 011-816-117-34-1509