Kadena Air Base (嘉手納空軍基地 Kadena Kûgun Kichi
) is located in Okinawa
, serving aircraft
of the United States Air Force
and also serving as a communications station for the Navy
. It is one of the principal installations of the Armed Forces
It was built by the Imperial Japanese Air Force late in 1945, and originally named Yara Aerodrome. At the time of the American invasion on April 1, Yara's only runway was a 4,500-foot strip of coral, which had been badly damaged by Allied shelling of the island. The Tenth Army was able to secure the airfield by the end of the first day of fighting, and by the time of Japan's surrender in September, Kadena had been repaired and expanded to house an entire wing of B-29 Superfortress bombers.
Two more bomber groups moved to Kadena during the Korean War, and flew sorties from the base: in 1954, the last B-29's left and were replaced by F-86 fighter jets, which were followed by a variety of new and exciting aircraft, including SR-71 Blackbirds affectionately named "Habu" after a poisonous snake found on Okinawa.
Today, Kadena's main unit is the USAF 18 Wing of F-15 fighter aircraft, supported by E-3 Sentry AWACS planes and KC-135 tankers, as well as C-130 Hercules for milk runs and HH-60 Pave Hawks for search and rescue. The fighters at Kadena supplement the F-16 Falcon multirole aircraft at Misawa Air Base and the airlift fleet at Yokota Air Base.
Some 20,000 Americans (9,000 of them in the service) live at Kadena, and an additional 13,000 Japanese work there.