The Yomiuri Shimbun The United States’ relocation of carrier-borne aircraft from Atsugi Air Base in Kanagawa Prefecture to Iwakuni Air Station in Yamaguchi Prefecture, part of a planned U.S. military realignment in Japan, is progressing. As part of the plan, a total of 15 aircraft, including F/A-18 Super Hornet fighter jets, arrived at the Iwakuni base on Tuesday.
U.S. forces in Japan plan to relocate a total of 61 carrier-borne aircraft to the Iwakuni base.
The carrier-borne aircraft unit, including the command of the carrier air wing to which the aircraft unit belongs, will relocate to the Iwakuni base by around May next year.
All aircraft scheduled for relocation are carrier-borne aircraft attached to the USS Ronald Reagan, a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier based at the Yokosuka Naval Base in Kanagawa Prefecture.
On Tuesday, EA-18G electronic warfare aircraft also arrived at the Iwakuni base.
The relocation of the F/A-18 jets, among the loudest sources of noise around U.S. bases in Japan, will also help reduce noise pollution around the Atsugi base, which is located in a densely populated area.
In 2014, a unit of KC-130 aerial refueling planes was transferred from Futenma Air Station in Okinawa Prefecture to the Iwakuni base. F-35B stealth fighters, one of the newest U.S. military aircraft models, are also deployed to the base.
Upon completion of the relocation of F/A-18 jets and other aircraft, Iwakuni Air Station will be one of the U.S. military’s largest aircraft hubs in the Far East, where a total of about 120 military aircraft will be stationed.
The United States’ consolidation of aircraft in Iwakuni comes amid rising tensions in East Asia, with China building up its military and North Korea continuing its nuclear and missile development. The Iwakuni base’s importance to national security has risen due to its relative proximity to China and the Korean Peninsula.
The Commander of the U.S. Naval Forces Japan stated that the United States will deploy its newest and most capable squadrons to defend Japan and ensure regional safety and stability.
Following completion of the relocation, U.S. forces will focus on securing sites for takeoff and landing drills for carrier-borne aircraft.
For the time being, U.S. forces will also continue to hold drills on Iwoto, a remote Pacific island that is administratively part of Tokyo. However, they have asked the Japanese government to quickly select an alternative site.