According to the new head of US Forces Japan, Air Force Lt. Gen. Edward Rice, the changes coming for US Air Force elements in Japan, including the addition of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, require some rethinking about airspace training ranges. In a May 21 interview with Stars and Stripes, Rice indicated that USAF would need to retain use of the ranges it now employs and perhaps employ them more efficiently. “We’ve got to be innovative about how we think about ranges and how we think about airspace,” Rice told the newspaper and added: “It’s always going to be difficult to get more airspace. It’s always going to be difficult to get more range space.” Some fighter training formerly conducted on the Japanese island of Okinawa already has moved to the mainland to reduce the noise around Kadena Air Base. And, though not used for fighter training, some airspace around Yokota Air Base, home to the C-130s of the 374th Airlift Wing, has gone to provide more airspace to civilian aviation.
Three B-1B Lancers from the 7th Bomb Wing flew over the Indo-Pacific alongside F-16s from the Japanese Air Self Defense Force recently, as part of a joint large force exercise. The mission began and ended in the continental U.S., as the bombers flew 31 hours and landed Jan. 11.