Text & Pictures: Philippe Decock ęsbap 2021
 
Kadena Air Base is a United States Air Force (USAF) base located near the city of Kadena, Okinawa, an island located halfway between Kyushu (the southernmost island of the japanese archipelago) and Taiwan.
 
 
History
A small airfield known as Naka Hikojo, or Yara Hikojo, was completed just prior to 1 April 1945 invasion of Okinawa known as Operation Iceberg. The airfield was built near the village of Ryukyu.
This airfield was one of the first objectives of the Tenth Army at the time of the invasion. The field was captured and secured just hours after the initial landings. American troops found a deserted and badly damaged 1500-meter coral-surfaced runway. U.S. Army engineers had to fill in craters and make other repairs. By nightfall that day, the airfield was usable for emergency landings only. Eight days later, with the addition of eight inches of coral, the airfield became fully operational. By August 1945, an additional runway was built, and the existing strip lengthened in order to accommodate bombers.
Kadena Air Base was first used as a fighter and medium bomber base. The 316th Bombardment Wing was the first unit responsible for operating the base. The wing fell under control of the Eighth Air Force and Lt. Gen. Jimmy Doolittle, whose headquarters was established on Kadena Air Base in July 1945. President Harry S. Truman announced the end of the offensive action against Japan on 15 August 1945. The formal surrender of Japanese forces in the Ryukyu Islands came on 7 September 1945. Gen. Joseph W. Stillwell accepted the surrender on Kadena Air Base with General Doolittle in attendance.

The 316th Bombardment Wing remained at Kadena Air Base, coming under the control of the 1st Air Division until the wing's inactivation in 1948.
On 1 December 1948, the 13th Air Force moved to Kadena Air Base.
When the 13th Air Force moved to Clark Air Base, Philippines, in 1949, the 20th Air Force became the host unit on Kadena Air Base. From the end of World War II to the beginning of the Korean conflict, Kadena Air Base supported operations and training for B-29 bomber aircraft and reconnaissance units. On 27 June 1950, two days after the invasion by the North Korean Army, the 19th Bombardment Group moved from Andersen Air Base, on the island of Guam, to Kadena Air Base. The bomber aircraft moved quickly, arriving before the end of the month. In August 1950, the 307th Bomb Group, under Strategic Air Command, moved from MacDill Field, Florida, to Kadena Air Base. The bomb group's B-29 aircraft enlarged the bomber force on Kadena Air Base.
After the signing of the Korean ceasefire on 27 July 1953 began the exodus of B-29 aircraft from Kadena Air Base. By October 1954, the last bomber aircraft departed the island of Okinawa.
In November 1954, the 18th Fighter-Bomber Wing moved from the Republic of Korea to Kadena Air Base. It brought two flying squadrons (12th and 67th) equipped with North American F-86F Sabre fighter jets to Kadena Air Base. A third flying squadron (44th), previously based in Clark Air Base, Philippines, joined the wing a few months later.
After the Sabre, those squadrons flew North American F-100D/F Super Sabre, Republic F-105D/F Thunderchief, McDonnell Douglas F-4C Phantom II and McDonnell Douglas F-15C/D Eagle.
A tactical reconnaissance mission was added to the wing in 1960 with the arrival of the McDonnell RF-101C Voodoo equipped 15th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron. The Voodoo was replaced by the McDonnell Douglas RF-4C Phantom II in 1967. The squadron was inactivated in 1989 and its aircraft transfered to the 460TRG in Taegu, South Korea. That unit was disestablished a year later and its RF-4C transfered to the ROKAF.

Other units have been based in Kadena over the years :
The 498 Tactical Missile Group (from February 1961 to October 1969) equipped with CGM-13B " Mace " guided cruise missiles.
The 4252 Strategic Wing (from January 1965 to April 1970) followed by 376 Strategic Wing (from April 1970 to August 1973) to conduct B-52, KC-135, RC-135 and EC-135 operations in support of the war in Vietnam.
The 9th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing (from March 1968 to January 1990) to conduct Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird (or Habu as it was called in Kadena, a reference to a pit viper living on the island) operations over Vietnam during the war and, later on, over North Korea and along the borders of China and the USSR.
The organizational make-up of Kadena Air Base has seen many changes over the past 56 years. Many different units have been based at one time or another in Kadena Air Base, beginning with the U.S. Army's 13th Combat Battalion of the 7th Infantry Division from 2 April to 4 September 1945. The 316th Bombardment Wing followed the Army from 5 September 1945 to 31 December 1949.
The 6332nd Air Base Wing assumed host responsibilities on Kadena Air Base from 1 January 1950 until 30 April 1955.
The first major U.S. Air Force unit reorganization took place on 1 May 1955 when the 18th Fighter-Bomber Wing took over the duties of host unit until 31 January 1957.
On 1 February 1957, the 18th Air Base Group transferred from the 18th Wing to the 313th Air Division and assumed the base duties.
Then, on 1 October 1957, the 6313th Air Base Wing, under the control of the 313th Air Division became the host unit until 9 December 1964.
The 824th Combat Support Group, under the 313th Air Division, would hold the host honor for almost ten years.
The final unit to host Kadena Air Base would be the 18th Tactical Fighter Wing on 1 October 1974.
Even though the wing's designation has changed over the years, the host unit has remained the same for the last 26 years.

 
General view of a part of Kadena AFB 18th Wing
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Kadena Air Base Today :

18th Operations Group :
- 33RQS (Rescue Squadron) : Sikorsky HH-60G Pave Hawk
- 44FS (Fighter Squadron) : Boeing F-15C/D Eagle
- 67FS (Fighter Squadron) : Boeing F-15C/D Eagle
- 909ARS (Air Refueling Squadron) : Boeing KC-135R Stratotanker
- 961AACS (Airborne Air Control Squadron) : Boeing E-3B/C Sentry

353 Special Operations Group :
- 1SOS (Special Operations Squadron) : Lockheed MC-130J Commando II

55th Operations Group, 55th Wing :
- 82RS (Reconnaissance Squadron) : Boeing RC-135U/V/W on deployment from Offutt, Nebraska.

McDonnell Douglas F-15C-35-MC  AF83-0024 (c/n 872/C284) 44th Fighter Squadron
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McDonnell Douglas F-15C-39-MC  AF85-0093 (c/n 944/C335) 44th Fighter Squadron
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"Zulu Twice"...
The two-letter codes prominently displayed on the tails of U.S. Air Force aircraft today represent the owning wing. Dating back to 1968, the Pacific Air Forces randomly assigned a single letter to each of its 24 wings. The 460th Tactical Reconnaissance Wing received the letter "A", the 388th Tactical fighter Wing got the "J", and the 18th Tactical Fighter Wing was given the "Z". A second letter was later added to designate a particular flying squadron. The squadrons of the 18th Tactical Fighter Wing each received their own distinctive second letter. The 12th Tactical Fighter Squadron received the "A", the 15th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron got the "Z", the 44th was given the "L", and the 67th the "G".
In June 1972, the Air Force tried to bring some semblance of order to this chaotic system. Two-letter codes were assigned directly to wings. Early designations showed a relationship between the code and the location of the wing. The 18th waited until 1975 to receive their new tail codes. The Tactical Air Command deputy commander for operations responded to a request from the Pacific Air Forces Commander-in-Chief and assigned the wing's units with the distinctive "ZZ" tail marking. The code of "ZZ" was chosen due to the fact that the code "KA" had already been used by the 457th Tactical Airlift Wing stationed at Cam Rahn Bay in Vietnam, and the fact that the wing was already using the letter "Z" as the first letter of their old tail code. Wing leaders saw the "ZZ" code as a mark of distinction.
 
Sikorsky HH-60G Pave Hawk  91-26405  (c/n 701739) 33rd Rescue Squadron
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Boeing KC-135R  58-0093 (c/n 17838/T0308) 909th Air Refueling Squadron
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McDonnell Douglas F-15C-39-MC  AF85-0097 (c/n 944/C335)  44th Fighter Squadron
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Boeing KC-135R  62-3565 (c/n 18548/T0616) 909th Air Refueling Squadron
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McDonnell Douglas F-15C-21-MC  AF78-0483 (c/n 464/C016) 44th Fighter Squadron
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McDonnell Douglas F-15C-32-MC  AF81-0042 (c/n 790/C225) 44th Fighter Squadron
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Boeing KC-135R  62-3498  (c/n 18481/T0549)  909th Air Refueling Squadron
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McDonnell Douglas F-15C-39-MC  AF85-0095 (c/n 947/C337) 44th Fighter Squadron
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McDonnell Douglas F-15C-40-MC  AF85-0124 (c/n 981/C366) 44th Fighter Squadron
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McDonnell Douglas F-15C-39-MC  AF85-0107 (c/n 961/C349) 44th Fighter Squadron
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McDonnell Douglas F-15C-34-MC  AF82-0038 (c/n 855/C269) 67th Fighter Squadron
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McDonnell Douglas F-15C-34-MC  AF82-0036 (c/n 853/C267) 67th Fighter Squadron
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McDonnell Douglas F-15C-40-MC  AF85-0119 (c/n 975/C361) 67th Fighter Squadron "18 Operation Group" Flagship
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McDonnell Douglas F-15C-40-MC  AF85-0123 (c/n 979/C365) 67th Fighter Squadron
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McDonnell Douglas F-15C-32-MC  AF81-0050 (c/n 804/C233)  67th Fighter Squadron
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McDonnell Douglas F-15C-31-MC  AF81-0034 (c/n 770/C217)  67th Fighter Squadron
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McDonnell Douglas F-15C-34-MC  AF82-0036 (c/n 853/C267)  67th Fighter Squadron
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McDonnell Douglas F-15C-35-MC  AF83-0029 (c/n 878/C289)  67th Fighter Squadron
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McDonnell Douglas F-15C-39-MC  AF85-0098 (c/n 950/C340)  67th Fighter Squadron
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McDonnell Douglas F-15C-39-MC  AF85-0104 (c/n 958/C346)  67th Fighter Squadron
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McDonnell Douglas F-15C-40-MC  AF85-0117 (c/n 973/C359)  67th Fighter Squadron
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A duo of USN P-8's with a RCAF CP-140 Aurora on the left and a RNZAF P-3K Orion on the right
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P-8A Poseidon in the maintenance hangar
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Lockheed EP-3E Aries II   157325 (c/n 185-5540)  USN VQ-1
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Boeing C-17A Globemaster III  05-5151 (c/n 50159/F158/P151)  535th AS

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McDonnell-Douglas F/A-18D Hornet  165680 (c/n 1469/D154)  DT-08
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44th Fighter Squadron flight line
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Boeing KC-135T  58-0086  (c/n 17831/T0301)  909th Air Refueling Squadron
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(Philippe Decockę) At the break, entering a cloud
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Lockheed MC-130J Commando II  08-6202 (c/n 382-5681)  1st Special Operations Squadron
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US Navy Lockheed NP-3C-IIIR "Orion"  RL-570  158570 (c/n 185-5579)   VXS-1 "Warlocks"
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Scientific Development Squadron 1 (VXS-1) "Warlocks"  is a U.S. Navy support squadron that conducts numerous single-aircraft deployments around the world in support of a wide range of airborne research projects for the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory, U.S. Navy, U.S. Government, and its contracting agencies.
Formerly known as Flight Support Detachment, VXS-1 was established on December 13th, 2004 as commissioned by the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations.
VXS-1 maintains a fleet of two uniquely configured, research modified NP-3C "Orion" aircraft!
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