F-15C crash in Okinawa questions safety of US military presence
A United States Air Force F-15C fighter crashed off the island of Okinawa, South of Japan, on June 11, 2018. A helicopter of the Japan Air Self-Defense Force rescued the pilot after he managed to eject. He was transported to a local U.S. military hospital and is reportedly in a “serious condition”.
The incident happened during a routine training mission. An investigation was launched to identify the origins of the crash. The fighter was based in Kadena Air Base (DNA), near the city of Okinawa. Home to about 20,000 soldiers, defense contractors and military family members, it is the biggest U.S. base in Japan.
The U.S. Army bases in Okinawa are subject to protests from the population of the island. After several incidents, the safety of the U.S. presence is being questioned. On December 13, 2017, a window fell from a U.S. Marines CH-53E transport helicopter on a school, injuring a 10 years old boy.
Following the latest mishap, the local government asked for all of the F-15s to be grounded. Okinawa Governor Takeshi Onaga severely criticized the incidents. “We cannot fulfill our responsibilities for our children and their children if such a situation becomes the norm,” he told local media, adding, “I don’t think there is a country like this among developed nations.”
While some islanders ask for a complete dismantlement of the U.S. presence on Okinawa, the Governor, backed by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, supports the relocation of Kadena air base to a less populated part of the island.
Kadena air base announced the F-15s were suspended while the 18th Wing reviews “operational, maintenance and safety procedures with unit personal”. It is the 6th crash involving the U.S. military in 2018.