Naha Air Base is combat flight operations facility owned and run by the Japan Air Self-Defense Force. During a period of time between the late 1940s and early 1970s, Naha was under the administrative control United States Air Force. The installation is located at the south side of the Oroku Peninsula, at the edge of Okinawa, Japan’s capital city, Naha.
Naha Airfield was originally an air base of the for the Imperial Japanese Navy, but was captured by the United States during World War II in the Battle of Okinawa on April 1, 1945. After the war, the installation became a major USAF base under the operational control of Pacific Air Forces (PACAF). The USAF ended its use of Naha AB in the early 1970s and was taken over by the JASDF in 1979.
Segue to the present day. According to Major General Yasuhiko Suzuki, current commander of Naha Air Base, his aircraft have scrambled more than 400 times between March of last year and the present day. Think about that for a moment. Four HUNDRED times–more than once per day.
Why the uptick in activity? The Senkaku Islands–under dispute between Japan, China, and Taiwan–are a relatively short distance away in the East China Sea. With the Chinese moving to establish themselves as the prominent superpower in the western Pacific region, there’s been a massive surge of activity from the People’s Liberation Army Air Force. What’s the cause for the rub? Oil. Undersea reserves were discovered in that area in the late 1960s, and when the United States relinquished administrative control of the islands back to Japan, both China and Taiwan laid claim. There’s been a dispute ever since.
For more on the JASDF’s fighter pilots responding to the airspace incursions, look here. And in the mean time, enjoy this footage of JASDF F-15s and F-4s from Hyakuri Air Base.