F-15s from Kadena AB, Japan, touched down at Yokota AB, Japan, earlier this week. The aircraft, along with F-22s deployed to Kadena, were moved to Yokota to take refuge from an oncoming typhoon. Photos by Arie Church for Air Force Magazine
KADENA AB, Japan—Eighteen F-15 Eagles and eight F-22s were evacuated from the island of Okinawa to Yokota Air Base on mainland Japan because of an approaching typhoon, marking the first time all of Kadena’s F-15s were moved to Yokota, according to the Air Force.
Typhoon Maria, which quickly reached super typhoon status early on, had been projected to hit Okinawa directly. As of Saturday, Okinawa was expecting winds in excess of 130 knots.
Kadena’s weather flight monitors conditions and disseminates observations every hour, as well as writing 30-hour forecasts that cover the area within five miles of the center of the airfield, explained MSgt. Michael Rosales, flight chief at the Kadena weather flight.
The weather flight also issues watches and advisories, and once a tropical storm or typhoon has developed and is within 300 miles of the island, the weather flight will keep a close eye on it, Rosales said. The airmen then compile and provide all available storm information to the 18th Wing commander, who makes tropical cyclone conditions of readiness (TCCOR) decisions for all US troops and families on the island.
Okinawa stays at TCCOR 4 status—which means destructive winds of 50 knots or greater are possible within 72 hours—or lower throughout typhoon season, which runs from June 1 to November 30.
Brig. Gen. Case Cunningham declared TCCOR-3 status Sunday afternoon, meaning winds of more than 50 knots were possible within 48 hours. He changed the status to TCCOR-2 on Monday afternoon and declared TCCOR-1—winds of greater than 50 knots possible within 12 hours—on Monday evening.
The storm had shifted and weakened before it passed the base, but the island still felt periods of tropical-storm-force winds and a peak gust of 58 miles per hour, according to the weather channel.
Maria slammed Andersen AFB, Guam, with rain and winds up to 72 miles per hour on July 5, the Weather Channel reported; the storm damaged some aircraft at the base, though no fleets have been grounded, according to Stars and Stripes.
Lt. Col. Jason Somers, deputy commander of the 18th Operations Group at Kadena, told Air Force Magazine that typhoons “can have significant mission impacts,” including forcing the group to hangar aircraft for the duration of a storm, or fly it to a location outside of the typhoon’s path.
“High or excessive wind speeds potentially damage cars, buildings, windows, power lines, and even the most technologically advanced aircraft in the world,” Somers said, adding that while hangared aircraft are obviously not able to fly, aircraft that have been evacuated can also be used for operational or training missions elsewhere.
“Typhoons may have an impact” on planned flying activities, but “despite the weather, the 18th Operations Group maximizes training and provides operational resources around the world, anytime, anyplace,” Somers said.
The F-22 Raptors that evacuated from Kadena are based at JB Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, and are deployed as part of US Pacific Command’s theater security package program, the Air Force said.