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Kadena Air Base

Pacific Air Forces.png
Part of United States Pacific Air Forces (PACAF)
Kadena Hikōjō

Kadena AB Okinawa Japan.jpg
Airport type Military
Operator United States Air Force
(Fifth Air Force)
Location Okinawa
Elevation AMSL 146 ft / 45 m
Coordinates 26°21′06″N 127°46′10″E / 26.35167°N 127.76944°E / 26.35167; 127.76944 (Kadena Air Base)Coordinates: 26°21′06″N 127°46′10″E / 26.35167°N 127.76944°E / 26.35167; 127.76944 (Kadena Air Base)
Direction Length Surface
m ft
05R/23L 3,700 12,139 Asphalt concrete
05L/23R 3,700 12,139 Asphalt concrete
Source: Japanese AIP at AIS Japan[1]

Kadena Air Base (嘉手納飛行場 Kadena Hikōjō ?), (IATA: DNA, ICAO: RODN) is a United States Air Force base located in the towns of Kadena and Chatan and the city of Okinawa, in Okinawa Prefecture, Japan. Kadena Air Base is the hub of U.S. airpower in the Pacific, and home to the USAF's 18th Wing and a variety of associate units.



18th Wing.jpg

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 numerous 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.

Associate units:

  • 733rd Air Mobility Squadron
    The more than 320 people of the 733rd 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.
  • 82d Reconnaissance Squadron
    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. Of special value to the Pacific Command and national command authorities, information obtained is used at all levels of the Department of Defense and within other government agencies. The squadron works closely with the 390th Intelligence Squadron.
  • 390th Intelligence Squadron
    Air Intelligence Agency's 390th Intelligence 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.
  • U.S. Army
    1st Battalion, 1st Air Defense Artillery Regiment, assigned to the 94th AAMDC. This 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).

Other units:

  • 320th Special Tactics Squadron
  • 1st Special Operations Squadron
  • 17th Special Operations Squadron
  • 733rd Air Mobility Squadron
  • Det 1, 554th Red Horse Squadron
  • American Forces Network Detachment 11, AFNEWS
  • Det 3, Pacaf Air Postal Squadron
  • Det 3, United States Air Force School of Aerospace Medicine
  • Support Center Pacific, OO-ALC/Maly
  • Det 3, Wr-Alc Air Force Petroleum Office
  • Det 624, AF Office of Special investigations
  • Det 233, Air Force Audit Agency
  • Field Training Detachment Det 15, 372nd Training Squadron
  • Defense Commissary Agency
  • DoDDS Pacific Director's Office
  • DoD Dependents Schools Pacific-Okinawa District
  • U.S. Consulate Naha
  • Marine Wing Liaison Kadena
  • Red Cross
  • 18th Force Support Squadron

United States Navy Use

The Korean War emphasized the need for maintaining a naval presence in Okinawa. On February 15, 1951, the US Naval Facility, Naha, was activated and later became commissioned on April 18. Commander Fleet Activities, Ryukyus was commissioned on March 8, 1957. On May 15, 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 May 7, 1975, the title then became Commander Fleet Activities, Okinawa/US Naval Air Facility, Kadena.

The mission of NAVCOMM Det Okinawa is to provide communications support for SEVENTH Fleet and supporting units, U.S. Naval Forces Japan, U.S. Naval Forces Korea, Defense Information Systems Agency and the Japanese Maritime Self Defense Force. The detachment has four work centers: 1) TSCCOMM provides telecommunications support for Patrol Wing ONE Det Kadena, deployed patrol squadrons and Marine Wing Detachment; 2) CMS provides communications security (COMSEC) materials and cryptographic equipment to Patrol Squadrons and detachments, and to Commander Amphibious Group One/CTF76, located at White Beach; 3) Naval Radio Transmitter Facility (NRTF) Awase provides HF transmitter support to the fleet and area commanders and LF transmitter support for submarines operating in the Pacific and Indian Oceans; and 4) SURTASS supports command and control functions to SURTASS ships operating in the Indian Ocean and Western Pacific.

Notable areas

  • Main Street (The Tiki)
  • Gate 2 Street
  • Kadena Tarmac
  • Kadena BX
  • Schilling Community Center
  • Airmans Club
  • NCO Club
  • Officers Club
  • Jack’s Place Restaurant (originally Skoshi Kume)
  • Kadena High School
  • Kadena Middle School
  • Kadena Elementary School
  • Bob Hope Primary School
  • Ryukyu Middle School
  • Amelia Earhart Intermediate School
  • Stearley Heights Elementary School
  • The Asian Division of University of Maryland University College (UMUC)[1]
  • Kadena Bomb Dump
  • Kadena Commisary


Kadena Air Base's history dates back to just before the April 1, 1945, Battle of Okinawa, when a local construction firm completed a small airfield named Yara Hikojo near the island's village of Kadena. The airfield, used by Imperial Japanese warplanes, was one of the first targets of the Tenth United States Army 7th Infantry Division and was seized from the Japanese by the United States.


Major commands to which assigned

Redesignated: Far East Air Force, January 1, 1947
Redesignated: Pacific Air Forces, July 1, 1957

Major units assigned

(7th AF), July 2 – July 21, 1945
437th Bomb Squadron, July 2, 1945 – July 21, 1945
438th Bomb Squadron, July 3, 1945 – July 21, 1945
439th Bomb Squadron, July 2, 1945 – July 21, 1945
440th Bomb Squadron, July 2, 1945 – July 21, 1945
(8th AF) August 5, 1945 – May 28, 1946
460th Bomb Squadron, August 5, 1945 – May 28, 1946
507th Bomb Squadron, August 5, 1945 – May 28, 1946
435th Bomb Squadron, August 5, 1945 – May 28, 1946
507th Bomb Squadron, August 5, 1945 – May 28, 1946
(8th AF) August 7, 1945 – June 30, 1946
461st Bomb Squadron, August 13, 1945 – June 30, 1946
462d Bomb Squadron, August 13, 1945 – June 30, 1946
463d Bomb Squadron, August 13, 1945 – June 30, 1946
46th Troop Carrier Squadron, August 18, 1945 – September 21, 1945
1st Fighter Squadron, November 17, 1945 – January 29, 1946
34th Fighter Squadron, November 17, 1945 – January 29, 1946
21st Fighter Squadron, November 21, 1945 – January 29, 1946
6332d Air Base Wing September 1, 1953 – May 1, 1955
  • 19th Bombardment Group July 5, 1950 – June 1, 1953
19th Bombardment Wing June 1, 1953 – June 5, 1954
18th Tactical Fighter Wing July 1, 1958 – October 1, 1991
18th Wing October 1, 1991 – Present
  • 313th Air Division March 1, 1955 – October 1, 1991
  • Kadena Task Force (Provisional) May 1955 – May 1958
  • 25th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron July 17, 1956 – August 1, 1957
  • 6313th Air Base Wing September 1, 1957 – April 15, 1959
  • 498th Tactical Missile Group February 8, 1961 – July 8, 1965
  • 824th Combat Support Group December 8, 1964 – September 30, 1974
  • 4252nd Strategic Wing January 1965 – April 1970
376th Strategic Wing April 1, 1970 – October 1, 1991

Operational history

What the Americans captured was nothing more than a 4,600 foot strip of badly-damaged coral runway. Army engineers from the 13th Combat Battalion, 7th U.S. Infantry Division quickly made repairs and, by nightfall the same day, the runway could accept emergency landings. Eight days later, and after some six inches of coral were added, the airfield was declared operational and put into immediate service by artillery spotting aircraft when the runway became serviceable on April 6. 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-ft bituminous runway, and a 7,500-ft runway for bomber aircraft by August.

Kadena airfield was initially under the control of Seventh Air Force, however on July 16, 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 September 7. 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:

  • 317th Troop Carrier Group (August–September 1945) (C-46, C-47)
    Assigned to Seventh Air Force in the Philippines. Deployed aircraft to Kadena and flew courier and passenger routes to Japan, Guam, Korea, and the Philippines, and transported freight and personnel in the area.
  • 333d Bombardment Group (Very Heavy) (August 1945 – May 1946) (B-29)
    Assigned to Eighth Air Force for planned invasion of Japan. Operations terminated before the group could enter combat. For a time after the war the group ferried Allied prisoners of war from Japan to the Philippine Islands. Inactivated May 1946.
  • 346th Bombardment Group (Very Heavy) (August 1945 – June 1946) (B-29)
    Assigned to Eighth Air Force for planned invasion of Japan. Operations terminated before the group could enter combat. After the war the group participated in several show-of-force missions over Japan and for a time ferried Allied prisoners of war from Okinawa to the Philippine Islands. Inactivated June 1946.
  • 316th Bombardment Wing (September 1945 – June 1948)
    Assigned to Eighth Air Force for planned invasion of Japan. Operations terminated before the group could enter combat. Reassigned to U.S. Far East Air Forces January 1946. Redesignated as 316th Composite Wing in January 1946, and 316th Bombardment Wing (Very Heavy) in May 1946. Inactivated June 1948.

On June 7, 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 May 16, 1949.

Postwar Years and the Korean War

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:

  • 6th Bombardment Group (Very Heavy) (June 1947 – October 1948) (B-29)
    Participated in show-of-force flights over Japan and dropped food and other relief supplies to newly freed Allied prisoners of war. Inactivated October 1948.
  • 71st Tactical Reconnaissance Wing (August 1948 – October 1948) (F-5, F-6, RF-51, RF-61)
    Equipped with reconnaissance aircraft, flew aerial photographing missions over Japan and southern Korea. Inactivated October 1948. The 71st Air Base Group Provided base host unit support for organizations assigned to Kadena.
  • 32d Composite Wing (August 1948 – April 1949) (RB/SB-17G, C-46, RB/SB-29)
    Replaced 71st Tactical Reconnaissance Wing. Provided photographic reconnaissance and search and rescue support. The 32d Air Base Group Provided base host unit support for organizations assigned to Kadena.
  • 6332d Air Base Group (April 1949 – January 1950)
    6332d Air Base Wing (January 1950 – May 1955)
    6313th Air Base Wing (October 1957 – December 1964)
    Provided base host unit support for organizations assigned to Kadena.
  • 22d Bombardment Group (Medium) (July 1950 – October 1950) (B-29)
    Deployed from March AFB, California. Flew combat missions over North Korea and attacked enemy marshalling yards, bridges, highways, airfields, and industries and supported United Nations ground forces.
  • 581st Air Resupply Group (September 1953 – September 1956) (B-29)
    reassigned from the inactivating 581st Air Resupply and Communications Wing at Clark AB, Philippines. Performed unconventional warfare and counterinsurgency psychological operations. Deactivated and mission transferred to U.S. Navy.

18th Wing

Since November 1954, the 18th Wing under various designations has been the main United States Air Force operational unit at Kadena. Over the past 50 years, the 18th has maintained assigned aircraft, crews, and supporting personnel in a high state of readiness for tactical air requirements of Fifth Air Force and the Pacific Air Forces.

The 18th Fighter-Bomber Wing was reassigned to Kadena from Osan-ni AB (K-55), South Korea on November 1, 1954, flying three squadrons (12th, 44th and 67th Fighter Squadrons) of North American F-86 Sabres. Initially the wing supported tactical fighter operations in Okinawa, as well as in South Korea, Japan, Formosa, and the Philippines with frequent deployments. In 1957, the wing upgraded to the North American 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 RF-101 Voodoo and the 15th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron.

On June 30, 1959 an F-100 from the wing crashed on Okinawa during a training flight after suffering an engine fire. The pilot successfully ejected and suffered no harm, but the aircraft crashed into a local elementary school, killing 11 students plus six residents of the nearby neighborhood.[2]

Beginning in 1961, the 18th was sending its tactical squadrons frequently to South Vietnam and Thailand, initially with its RF-101 reconnaissance forces, and beginning in 1964 with its tactical fighter forces supporting USAF combat missions in the Vietnam War. In 1963, the Republic F-105 Thunderchief replaced the Super Sabres. During the 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 the Rolling Thunder operations. Aircraft markings on natural metal/silver F-105D/F aircraft included a PACAF badge on both sides of the vertical fin, and a coloured band around the nose directly behind the radome. The deployments to Southeast Asia continued until the end of United States involvement in the conflict.

The McDonnell Douglas 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 Douglas 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 Air Base, 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. The McDonnell Douglas F/RF-4C Phantom II replaced the F-105s in 1971, and a further upgrade to the McDonnell Douglas F-15 Eagle was made in 1979.

In 1972, the 1st Special Operations Squadron was assigned, bringing their specialized Lockheed 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 deactivation of the 15th TRS.

The designation of the wing changed on October 1, 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 Boeing KC-135 Stratotanker tanker aircraft; and surveillance, warning, command and control Boeing E-3 Sentry, and communications. Added airlift mission in June 1992 with the Beech 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.

BRAC 2005

In November 2006, the U.S. Army's 1-1 ADA Battalion, a Patriot PAC-III unit, deployed to Kadena from Fort Bliss Texas[3]. They are assigned to the 94th AAMDC, PACOM, they were assigned to 31st ADA Brigade at Fort Bliss. 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 in Okinawa. The unit was greeted by protests.[4]

Other Units

Other major units assigned to Kadena since 1954 have been:

  • 313th Air Division (March 1955 – October 1991)
    Assumed responsibility for air defense of the Ryukyu Islands and tactical operations in the Far East, maintaining assigned forces at the highest possible degree of combat readiness. In addition, it supported Fifth Air Force in the development, planning, and coordination of requirements for future Air Force operations in the Ryukyu Islands. The division also supported numerous exercises such as Cope Thunder, Cope Diamond, Team Spirit, and Cope North. Provided base host unit support for organizations assigned to Kadena (May 1955 – October 1957, December 1964 – October 1974). The Air Division was incorporated into the 18th Composite Wing in 1991.
  • Kadena Task Force (Provisional) (SAC) (May 1955 – May 1958) (RB/ERB-47H)
    Performed Electronic Reconnaissance and Countermeasures activities.
  • 498th Tactical Missile Group (February 1961 – October 1969) (TM-76B / CGM-13B)
    Equipped with the TM-76B, renumbered in 1963 to CGM-13B Mace guided cruise missile, four hard site launch sites.
  • 4252nd Strategic Wing (SAC) (January 1965 – April 1970)
    376th Strategic Wing (SAC) (April 1970 – August 1973) (B-52, KC-135, EC-135)
    Activated by Strategic Air Command at Kadena. Replaced 4252nd Strategic Wing. Conducted B-52 combat operations in Southeast Asia from January 1965 to September 1970, when Arc Light Missions from the base were terminated. Conducted KC-135 air refueling and EC-135 electronic reconnaissance from April 1970 to April 1973. Conducted airborne radio relay operations, April–November 1970, February–June 1971 and March 1972 – August 1973. Until 1991, the wing controlled the 909th Air Refueling Squadron (KC-135A/Q/R) and supported rotational reconnaissance aircraft (TR-1, SR-71) after the deactivation of the 9th SRW in 1974. The Wing was deactivated at Kadena on October 30, 1991 with the drawdown of strategic forces. Its mission was absorbed by the host 18th Wing.
  • 9th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing (SAC) (1968–1974) (A-12, SR-71)
    Deployed from Beale Air Force Base, California, Performed strategic reconnaissance over Southeast Asian enemy territory (North Vietnam, Laos). The SR-71s averaged approximately one sortie a week for nearly two years. By 1970, the SR-71s were averaging two sorties per week. By 1972, the Blackbird was flying nearly one sortie every day. While deployed in Okinawa, the SR-71s and their aircrew members gained the nickname Habu (as did the A-12s preceding them) after a southeast Asian pit viper which the Okinawans thought the plane resembled.


Name type Call sign Frequency Operating time
Kadena VOR KAD 112.000 24hour
TACAN - 1018.000
The U.S. air force takes charge of maintenance.

See also



PD-icon.svg This article incorporates public domain material from the United States Government document "18th Wing Public Affairs Office's and 18th Wing secure socketed Wing Staff page".
  • Fletcher, Harry R. (1989) Air Force Bases Volume II, Active Air Force Bases outside the United States of America on 17 September 1982. Maxwell AFB, Alabama: Office of Air Force History. ISBN 0912799536
  • Maurer, Maurer (1983). Air Force Combat Units Of World War II. Maxwell AFB, Alabama: Office of Air Force History. ISBN 0892010924.
  • Martin, Patrick (1994). Tail Code: The Complete History of USAF Tactical Aircraft Tail Code Markings. Schiffer Military Aviation History. ISBN 0887405134.
  • Ravenstein, Charles A. (1984). Air Force Combat Wings Lineage and Honors Histories 1947–1977. Maxwell AFB, Alabama: Office of Air Force History. ISBN 0912799129.
  • Rogers, Brian (2005). United States Air Force Unit Designations Since 1978. Hinkley, England: Midland Publications. ISBN 1-85780-197-0.

External links and references


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