U.S. Navy moves more planes to Iwakuni in 2nd transfer phase

An FA-18 fighter jet arrives at the U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni in Iwakuni, Yamaguchi Prefecture, on Nov. 28 as part of the transfer of aircraft deployed at U.S. Naval Air Facility Atsugi in Kanagawa Prefecture. (Toshihiko Ninomiya) The U.S. Navy in Japan said Nov. 28 it has completed moving three key contingents of fighter jets and electronic-warfare aircraft from its base in Kanagawa Prefecture to a U.S. Marine Corps base in Yamaguchi Prefecture.

It is the second phase of the transfer aimed at alleviating jet noise at U.S. Naval Air Facility Atsugi in Kanagawa Prefecture. Noise from the base affects an estimated 3 million people in the Tokyo metropolitan area and has been a source of complaints from local residents for decades.

The U.S. military plans to complete the relocation of about 60 aircraft based on the USS Ronald Reagan and its service members to U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni in Iwakuni, Yamaguchi Prefecture, by around May 2018.

The aircraft relocated in the latest move are two contingents of FA-18 fighter jets and one contingent of EA-18G electronic-warfare aircraft, totaling about 30 planes altogether.

The moves follow the transfer of five propeller-driven planes in August.

Although coming as a relief to residents who have complained about noise from the Atsugi base, the transfer also signifies the consolidation of U.S. military capabilities at the Iwakuni base.

“(The relocation) could end up offering (the U.S. military) another base for its carrier-borne aircraft to use at its own discretion and spreading noise pollution there,” said Tadao Ishigooka, chairman of the private group working to end noise pollution from the Atsugi base, expressing ambivalent feelings about the transfer.

The move from Atsugi to Iwakuni was part of a plan agreed upon by Tokyo and Washington in 2006 to realign U.S. military personnel based in Japan.

The carrier-borne aircraft are expected to continue to use the Atsugi base as the U.S. military deems the facility as important.