Dear Members and Friends,
Halfway between Taiwan and the main islands of Japan, protruding from the ocean depths where the East China Sea joins the Philippine Sea lies the small strategic island of Okinawa, Japan. The island is in a critical, geographical location within an hour’s plane flight from Taiwan, China, South Korea, Philippines, and the main islands of Japan.
Okinawa sits directly in the middle of the sea access gateway to the heart of China, through the East China Sea, the Yellow Sea, and the Bohai Sea close to Beijing. On these international waters, surrounding Okinawa, travels the majority of the exported and imported goods, resources, and products that move to and from China, Korea, and Japan. Under these waters remain untapped oil and natural gas reserves which lay beneath an air space that is of equal importance for international access. Consequently, the seas and the easily accessible air space, above and around Okinawa are of strategic importance to the nations that border these waters and space.
As these strategic factors have come to life over the past century and continue to ascend in security interests of the nations of this region, Japan and the United States have established a significant military presence on Okinawa. The United States first landed on Okinawa in 1945 and have had deployed Marine, Navy, and Air Force bases there ever since. This centrally located U.S. military presence has led to a strong economic recovery and success in this region through the sustainment of peace while deterring conflict, by assurance of freedom of access within this critical and volatile area of the world for over 60 years. Japan continues to support the American military presence in Okinawa with resources, as national security and partnership with the United States remains a priority.
The United States Air Force has its largest fighter wing, the 18th Wing of the 5th Air Force, deployed at Kadena Air Base in Okinawa. The 18th Wing and its 40 tenant units represent six Air Force Major Commands, and elements of the U.S. Marine Corps, and U.S. Navy. Further, Kadena Air Base offers support for the 7th Fleet and the battle group of the aircraft carrier USS George Washington (CVN 73) who patrol these international waters and deter conflict while assuring international freedom of the seas. The United States Marines, who are a mobile sea fighting force, are stationed in strength in Okinawa, Japan due to the strategic quick access the island offers to many of the region’s potentially volatile conflict spots. It is of note that Guam, a United States territory, is about a three hour plane ride and 1414 miles East of Okinawa. This distance and length of travel is too great to either effectively support the control of this region’s air space or provide rapid deployment of U.S. Marines.
Due to the criticality and importance of Okinawa, both the Japanese and the United States military forces have deployed their most capable missile defense systems on the island and on the seas that surround its shores. Advanced Patriot Advance Capability-3 Missile Defense Systems for terminal phase missile defense and Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense ships for lower midcourse and terminal phase missile defense are the common systems deployed by Japan and the United States. In addition, the United States Air Force F-22 Fighter Jets will have the capability to defeat cruise missiles. On this island of Okinawa remains one of the best United States Army Air Defense Battalions, the 1-1 Air Defense Artillery (ADA) Battalion “Snake Eyes.” The battalion is made up of four firing mobile Patriot-3 Batteries with six launchers per battery and close to 600 United States Soldiers in total.
It is gratifying to see the important role missile defense has in protecting Okinawa, Japan in deterrence and defense to prevent conflict in this region. With this massive responsibility comes the continual need to support, modernize, and grow all of these missile defense systems in this region as the increased proliferation of ballistic and cruise missiles from within this same region continues to exponentially grow. Movement of more Aegis BMD Ship capability into this region as well as more interceptors, both sea and land based, are essential in maintaining deterrence and assuring our allies. This week the Department of Defense has requested $212 million in a reprogramming request up and above its budget to procure 58 additional Patriot Advanced Capability-3 missiles to meet existing tactical ballistic missile threats.
Our nation and the world cannot have a secure stable future without investment in missile defense.
MDAA had the honor to visit the 18th Air Wing, the 1-1 ADA battalion U.S. missile defense war fighters that operate in Okinawa and the U.S. Sailors off shore in the East China Sea on the USS Shiloh (CG-67) and USS George Washington (CVN 73) last month.