The US sending F-35s to replace the aging F-15 interceptors stationed at Kadena Air Base on the Japanese island of Okinawa for future fights with China
According to a former US Marine, US stealth fighters have been stationed at a Japanese air base in anticipation of a confrontation with China.
In order to replace the aging F-15 interceptors stationed at Kadena Air Base on the Japanese island of Okinawa, the US Air Force (USAF) brought in a new batch of F-35 stealth attack aircraft early this week.
As a staging area for US marines deploying to smaller sites across the island, Kadena is currently the main US air facility in both Japan and the Asia-Pacific region, according to geopolitical analyst and former US Marine Brian Berletic, who spoke with Sputnik about the matter. Major US Army, Navy, Marine Corps, and USAF Pacific Air Forces (PACAF) command units are stationed there, along with a sizable fleet of combat aircraft and aerial refueling units.
“It is a hub from which many spokes radiate in terms of US efforts to encircle and contain China militarily,” Berletic explained. “Almost all contingencies in terms of an armed US conflict with China depend on US forces stationed in Japan,” due to the great distance between the mainland US and the area it is trying to dominate.
The Imperial Japanese Air Force used the first airfield at Kadena, which was initially constructed in early 1945 and had a crushed coral runway. During the last few months of World War II, the USAF utilized it for a few airstrikes against the home islands.
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Ordinary Okinawans, a people with a unique cultural identity from other Japanese people, have long been opposed to the US military presence on the island since it was invaded and occupied in 1945.
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Over the years, several rapes and murders have been committed by stationed servicemen, sometimes going unpunished because they are outside the purview of Japanese authorities.
Locals have also protested the V-22 Osprey tilt-rotor vertical take-off aircraft stationed at sites close to cities since the aircraft has a history of mishaps.
During its protracted introduction into service, the F-35 has also experienced technical difficulties, resulting in multiple aircraft losses or damage and multiple groundings of the whole fleet. When lifetime service and upgrade expenses are factored in, the fighter is also the most costly aircraft to enter military service.
The expert stated that the F-35s’ arrival was a component of the US military’s continuous modernization at Kadena, where fifth-generation F-22s had already supplanted F-16 air superiority aircraft.
“The US deploying warplanes thousands of miles from its own shores, on foreign soil, signifies Washington’s commitment toward pursuing its policy of encircling and containing China in the Asia-Pacific,” Berletic stressed.
The former US serviceman claimed that because Washington believes the “window of opportunity” for its “containment policy” against China is closing, it is willing to take the chance of raising tensions in the area.
“China continues to rise despite full-spectrum attempts to militarily encircle, diplomatically isolate, and economically strangle the nation,” Berletic said. “Washington realizes that once China fully surpasses the United States, the process will be irreversible. Many analysts believe the window of opportunity has already long-since closed.”
About 350 miles to the southwest of the Japanese home islands and 400 miles to the east of the Chinese mainland and the breakaway province of Taiwan are where Okinawa is located. Additionally, it is located 1,200 miles from Vladivostok, the extreme eastern port of Russia, and 800 miles south of North Korea.
In comparison, the narrowest point of the Taiwan Strait, which is located close to Taipei, the island’s capital, is less than 100 miles wide. Because of this, China has an advantage in any proxy war for its sovereignty that the US might start.
“Because any potential conflict the US fights with China will be along or relatively close to Chinese shores, China will also benefit logistically in terms of sustaining combat power while the US is required to fly long sorties from its bases in Japan and must resupply,” Berletic said.