First MQ-9 arrives at Kadena in major relocation milestone Published Oct. 13, 2023 By Senior Airman Sebastian Romawac 18th Wing Public Affairs KADENA AIR BASE, Japan -- The Keystone of the Pacific welcomed an MQ-9 Reaper previously deployed to Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force Kanoya Air Base, Japan, Oct. 13. This is the first of several MQ-9s deploying to Kadena to strengthen regional intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities to maintain a free and open Indo-Pacific. The Reaper, assigned to the 319th Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron, deployed from Creech Air Force Base, Nevada, landed safely after conducting a practice low approach to ensure an uneventful arrival. While deployed here, the MQ-9s will support the U.S.-Japan alliance with unique ISR capabilities that enable senior leaders to make prompt, informed decisions regarding the safety and security of the region. “Understanding the battlespace is absolutely essential to mission success,” said U.S. Air Force Col. Henry Schantz, 18th Operations Group commander. “Kadena has a long history of hosting ISR platforms, and we are excited to welcome them to our team.” Kadena’s strategic position makes it an invaluable location to stage ISR operations, enabling access to numerous potential flashpoints across the Indo-Pacific region. Operating from this vital location the long-endurance remotely piloted aircraft will provide critical, time-sensitive information for both U.S. and Japanese defense leaders. “Our Airmen are excited to serve in this challenging priority theater,” said U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Jordan Smith, 319th ERS commander. “Staging the MQ-9 from Kadena will expand our ability to build a more detailed, real-time operating picture to help protect a rules based international order enabling a prosperous Indo-Pacific.” Throughout these deployments, Team Kadena will continue to comply with applicable bilateral agreements with the Government of Japan regarding noise abatement. The deployment of aircraft like the MQ-9 to the Indo-Pacific region exemplifies the DOD’s continued commitment to enhancing America’s defense posture while building on the strong foundation of our Alliance with Japan.