|Kadena Air Base|
|Kadena, Okinawa Prefecture in Japan|
|Type||U.S. Air Force Base|
|Owner||Various (leased by Government of Japan and made available to the U.S.)|
|Operator||U.S. Air Force|
|Controlled by||Pacific Air Forces (PACAF)|
|Built||1945(as Yara Hikojo Airfield)|
|In use||1945 – present|
|Brig. Gen. David Eaglin|
|Garrison||18th Wing (Host)|
|Identifiers||IATA: DNA, ICAO: RODN, WMO: 479310|
|Elevation||43.6 metres (143 ft) AMSL|
|1x V/STOL pad|
|Source: Japanese AIP at AIS Japan|
Kadena Air Base (嘉手納飛行場, Kadena Hikōjō) (IATA: DNA, ICAO: RODN) is a highly strategic United States Air Force base in the towns of Kadena and Chatan and the city of Okinawa, in Okinawa Prefecture, Japan. It is often referred to as the "Keystone of the Pacific" because of its highly strategic and geographic location. It is located just 650 km off the coast of China and at a distance of just 770 km from Shanghai, a major economic hub. It is home to the USAF's 18th Wing, the 353rd Special Operations Group, reconnaissance units, 1st Battalion, 1st Air Defense Artillery Regiment, and a variety of associated units. Over 20,000 American servicemembers, family members, and Japanese employees live or work aboard Kadena Air Base. It is the largest and most active U.S. Air Force base in East Asia.
Kadena Air Base's history dates back to just before the Battle of Okinawa in April 1945, when a local construction firm completed a small airfield named Yara Hikojo near the village of Kadena. The airfield, used by the Imperial Japanese Army Air Force, was one of the first targets of the Tenth United States Army 7th Infantry Division. The United States seized it from the Japanese during the battle.
What the Americans captured was a 4,600 feet (1,400 m) strip of badly-damaged coral runway. "The initial work at Kadena was accomplished by the 1901st Aviation Engineer Battalion 7th U.S. Infantry Division and Naval Construction Battalion Maintenance Unit CBMU 624 on 4 April", by nightfall the same day, the runway could accept emergency landings. Eight days later, and after some 6 inches (150 mm) of coral were added, the airfield was declared operational and put into immediate service by artillery spotting aircraft. Additional construction was performed by the 807th Engineering Aviation Battalion to improve the airfield for USAAF fighter and bomber use with fuel tank farms, a new 6,500 feet (2,000 m) bituminous runway, and a 7,500 feet (2,300 m) runway for bomber aircraft, by August.
Kadena airfield was initially under the control of Seventh Air Force, however on 16 July 1945, Headquarters Eighth Air Force was transferred, without personnel, equipment, or combat elements to the town of Sakugawa, near Kadena from RAF High Wycombe England. Upon reassignment, its headquarters element absorbed the command staff of the inactivated XX Bomber Command. Kadena was used by the headquarters staff for administrative flying requirements.
Upon its reassignment to the Pacific Theater, Eighth Air Force was assigned to the U.S. Army Strategic Air Forces with a mission to train new B-29 Superfortress bomber groups arriving from the United States for combat missions against Japan. In the planned invasion of Japan, the mission of Eighth Air Force would be to conduct strategic bombing raids from Okinawa. However, the atomic bombings of Japan led to the Japanese surrender before Eighth Air Force saw action in the Pacific theater.
The surrender of Japanese forces in the Ryukyu Islands came on 7 September. General Joseph Stilwell accepted the surrender in an area that would later become Kadena's Stearley Heights housing area.
Known World War II units assigned to Kadena were:
On 7 June 1946, Headquarters Eighth Air Force moved without personnel or equipment to MacDill AAF, Florida. It was replaced by the 1st Air Division which directed fighter reconnaissance, and bomber organizations and provided air defense for the Ryukyu Islands until December 1948.
Twentieth Air Force became the command and control organization for Kadena on 16 May 1949.
The Korean War emphasized the need for maintaining a naval presence on Okinawa. On 15 February 1951, the U.S. Naval Facility, Naha, was activated and later became commissioned on 18 April. Commander Fleet Activities, Ryukyus was commissioned on 8 March 1957. On 15 May 1972, upon reversion of Okinawa to Japanese administration, the two organizations were combined to form Commander Fleet Activities, Okinawa. With the relocations of Commander Fleet Activities, Okinawa to Kadena Air Base on 7 May 1975, the title then became Commander Fleet Activities, Okinawa/US Naval Air Facility, Kadena.
Twentieth Air Force was inactivated in March 1955. Fifth Air Force became the command and control organization for Kadena. Known major postwar USAAF/USAF units assigned to Kadena have been:
At the end of the Eisenhower presidency, around 1,700 nuclear weapons were deployed on shore in the Pacific, 800 of which were at Kadena Air Base.
On 1 November 1954, the 18th Fighter-Bomber Wing arrived from Osan Air Base, South Korea. Under changing designations, the wing has been the main USAF flying force at Kadena for over 50 years. The wing has maintained assigned aircraft, crews, and supporting personnel in readiness to respond to orders from Fifth Air Force and Pacific Air Forces. The wing initially was flying three squadrons of North American F-86 Sabre: the 12th, 44th and 67th Fighter Squadrons. The wing flew tactical fighter sorties from Okinawa, and made frequent deployments to South Korea, Japan, Formosa, and the Philippines. In 1957, the wing upgraded to the F-100 Super Sabre and the designation was changed to the 18th Tactical Fighter Wing. In 1960, a tactical reconnaissance mission was added to the wing with the arrival of the McDonnell F-101 Voodoo and the 15th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron.
Beginning in 1961, the 18th TFW was sending its tactical squadrons frequently to South Vietnam and Thailand, initially with its RF-101 reconnaissance jets, and beginning in 1964 with its tactical fighter forces supporting USAF combat missions in the Vietnam War.: 257 In 1963, the F-105 Thunderchief replaced the Super Sabres. During the Temporary duty assignment (TDY) deployments to Southeast Asia, the 12th TFS lost four aircraft, the 44th TFS lost one F-105D, and the 67th TFS lost nine aircraft, including three on the first day of Operation Rolling Thunder. The deployments to Southeast Asia continued until the end of United States involvement in the conflict.
The RF-4C Phantom II replaced the RF-101 in the reconnaissance role in 1967. An electronic warfare capability was added to the wing in late 1968 with the attachment of the 19th Tactical Electronic Warfare Squadron from Shaw AFB South Carolina flying the EB-66 Destroyer. The B-66s remained until 1970, flying daily over the skies of Southeast Asia.
During the 1968 Pueblo crisis, the 18th deployed between January and June to Osan AB, South Korea following the North Korean seizure of the vessel. Frequent deployments to South Korea have been performed ever since to maintain the air defense alert mission there.
In 1972, the 1st Special Operations Squadron was assigned, bringing their specialized C/MC-130 Hercules aircraft to the wing. The squadron was reassigned in 1978. The reconnaissance mission ended in 1989 with the retirement of the RF-4Cs, and the inactivation of the 15th TRS.
The F/RF-4C Phantom II replaced the F-105s in 1971, and a further upgrade to the F-15 Eagle was made in 1979.
On 6 November 1972, the 18th Tactical Fighter Wing dispatched the McDonnell Douglas F-4C / D Phantom II fighter jets of the 44th Tactical Fighter Squadron and the 67th Tactical Fighter Squadron to the Ching Chuan Kang Air Base, Taiwan until 31 May 1975. Assist Taiwan ’s air defense against threats from China.
The designation of the wing changed on 1 October 1991 to the 18th Wing with the implementation of the Objective Wing concept. With the objective wing, the mission of the 18th expanded to the Composite Air Wing concept of multiple different wing missions with different aircraft. The mission of the 18th was expanded to include aerial refueling with KC-135 Stratotanker tanker aircraft; and surveillance, warning, command and control E-3 Sentry, and communications. Added airlift mission in June 1992 with the C-12 Huron, transporting mission critical personnel, high-priority cargo and distinguished visitors. In February 1993, the 18th Wing gained responsibility for coordinating rescue operations in the Western Pacific and Indian Ocean.
In November 2006, the U.S. Army's 1st Battalion, 1st Air Defense Artillery Regiment, a Patriot PAC-III unit, deployed to Kadena from Fort Bliss Texas. Originally assigned to 31st ADA Brigade of Fort Bliss, they were reassigned to the 94th AAMDC, USINDOPACOM. The move was part of the BRAC consolidation of U.S. Army bases and security agreements between the U.S. and Japan. The battalion's mission is to defend the base against tactical ballistic missiles from North Korea. The deployment was controversial on Okinawa, being greeted with protests.
Other U.S. allies [who?] who had expressed intention with the approval of both the Japanese government and the United States Air Force to host units in the air base to further impose united cooperation against regional threats; North Korea, Russian Siberia, Russian Far East and the growing influence of China in the Asia Pacific.
In early September 2018, Australian Defence Minister Christopher Pyne and New Zealand's Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters stated that it was in their interest to aid both Japan and the United States against North Korea with patrol aircraft. These units would provide additional capability to prevent North Korean vessels conducting illegal trading out at sea in violation of UN sanctions. The Royal Australian Air Force deployed two AP-3C aircraft, along with a P-3K2 Orion from the RNZAF. RAAF P-8 Poseidons have subsequently been periodically deployed to Kadena as part of Operation Argos. RNZAF Orions also periodically operate from Kadena, with four such deployments having been made as of April 2021.
Other major units assigned to Kadena since 1954 have been:
|Name||type||Call sign||Frequency||Operating time|
The 18th Wing is the host unit at Kadena AB. In addition, the base hosts associate units from five other Air Force major commands, the United States Navy, and other Department of Defense agencies and direct reporting units. Associate units operate more than 20 permanently assigned, forward-based or deployed aircraft from the base on a daily basis.
The 18th Wing is the Air Force's largest and most diverse combat wing. The Wing is broken down into five groups: the 18th Operations Group, the 18th Maintenance Group, the 18th Mission Support Group, the 18th Civil Engineer Group, and the 18th Medical Group. Kadena's fleet of F-15C/D Eagles (the 44th and 67th Fighter Squadrons); KC-135R/T Stratotankers (the 909th Air Refueling Squadron); E-3 Sentry|E-3B/C Sentries (the 961st Airborne Air Control Squadron); and HH-60 Pave Hawks (the 33d Rescue Squadron).
The 353d Special Operations Group is an element of the Air Force Special Operations Command, Hurlburt Field, Florida. The 750 Airmen of the group are organized into the 1st Special Operations Squadron, the 17th Special Operations Squadron, a maintenance squadron, the 320th Special Tactics Squadron, and an operations support squadron. The flying squadrons operate the MC-130J Commando II, MC-130H Combat Talon II.
This 733d Air Mobility Squadron manage all passengers and cargo traveling by air in and out of Kadena. This Air Mobility Command unit supports about 650 aircraft arrivals and departures every month, moving more than 12,000 passengers and nearly 3,000 tons of cargo.
Air Combat Command's 82d Reconnaissance Squadron maintains aircraft; prepares combat-ready aircrews; and analyzes, processes, and disseminates intelligence data launch in support of RC-135V/W Rivet Joint, RC-135U Combat Sent and WC-135 Constant Phoenix missions flown in the Pacific Theater.
This Air Intelligence Agency squadron conducts information operations by providing tailored combat intelligence and assessing the security of friendly command, control, communication and computer systems to enhance warfighting survivability, situation awareness and targeting.
The U.S. Army's 1st Battalion, 1st Air Defense Artillery Regiment, assigned to the 94th AAMDC is a Patriot PAC-3 battalion. It consists of four Patriot missile batteries (Alpha through Delta), a maintenance company (Echo) and a headquarters battery (HHB).
The Air Force Housing Management Office (HMO) manages Military Family Housing (MFH) for all service members assigned to Okinawa. Kadena Air Base contains nearly 4,000 family housing units, in apartment, townhouse, and single family home styles.
Flying and notable non-flying units based at Kadena Air Base.
Units marked GSU are Geographically Separate Units, which although based at Kadena, are subordinate to a parent unit based at another location.
Pacific Air Forces (PACAF)
Air Mobility Command (AMC)
Air Combat Command (ACC)
Civil Air Patrol (CAP)
United States Army
U.S. Army Pacific (USARPAC)
United States Marine Corps
Marine Forces Pacific (MARFORPAC)
In June 2013, the government of Japan discovered 22 barrels buried on former base property that tests showed had previously contained dioxins and herbicides. Tests on the surrounding soils found dioxin levels at 8.4 times and groundwater at 280 times the legal limit. The land in question is a soccer field bordering the base's Bob Hope Primary School and Amelia Earhart Intermediate School. Angry parents accused base officials, under base commanders Brigadier General Matt H. Molloy and Brigadier General James B. Hecker, of failing to notify them of the toxins near the school and not investigating into the matter. The parents established a Facebook group on 10 January 2014 titled, "Bob Hope/AEIS – Protect Our Kids." After the issue was reported in the Japan Times and Stars and Stripes, USAF officials tested the soil and water at the schools and said that no excessive toxic substances were found.
Soil on the base tested positive for very high levels of polychlorinated biphenylchemicals (PCBs), in the thousands of parts per million, much higher than most other contamination sites in the world, according to a report issued in 1987 after an investigation prompted by a small unrelated spill of transformer oil.