Kadena F-15C Pilot in Serious Condition Following Monday Crash

Airmen conduct a pre-flight inspection on an F-15 at Kadena AB, Japan, March 30, 2018. Air Force photo by SSgt. Micaiah Anthony.

An F-15C pilot with the 44th Fighter Squadron at Kadena AB, Japan, is in serious condition and the base has grounded its F-15 operations after a crash into waters south of Okinawa.

The pilot was forced to eject during a routine training mission out of Kadena at about 6:26 a.m. Monday. The pilot was recovered by the Japan Air Self-Defense Force’s Naha Rescue Squadron and taken to the US Naval Hospital on Camp Foster, according to a Kadena release.

“I would like to personally thank the Naha Rescue Squadron for their quick response this morning, which led to the safe recovery of our airman,” 18th Wing Vice Commander Col. Richard Tanner said in a release. “I sincerely appreciate the strong support of our Japanese partners in this difficult situation.”

Kadena announced Monday it has paused F-15 local training operations while the 18th Wing reviews operational, maintenance, and safety procedures with unit personnel. The stand-down is the second time the wing will have paused for a safety review, following last month’s USAF-wide grounding. It’s also the second time in four months a USAF F-15C unit has grounded its aircraft. In March, the F-15C training unit at Kingsley Field, Ore., was grounded after maintainers discovered “structural” issues with the aircraft.The Air Force also grounded its entire B-1 fleet late last week, including those deployed downrange in support of Operations Inherent Resolve and Resolute Support, due to safety issues. The service’s entire T-6 trainer fleet was grounded in February after multiple hypoxia-like incidents were reported. An Air Force safety investigation board will investigate Monday’s crash.

Officials said last month the spate of mishaps does not constitute a “crisis” and is not likely related to sequestration or readiness issues, though officials are working to discover root causes. However, the Japan Times reported that the incident is “likely to renew concerns among residents about the safety of US aircraft.”