Fighter Malfunction Affects Civilian Flights in Okinawa

A Japan Air Self-Defense Force F-15 fighter aircraft lost a tire while taking off at Naha Airport today, causing the runway to be blocked for more than two hours. At least 60 civilian flights and 3,800 passengers were affected by the incident.

One of four F-15s had to abort take-off at around 1:20pm when a tire peeled off the front wheel, leaving the fighter stranded on the airport’s single runway. The aircraft was removed after repairs shortly after 3:00pm.

In the meantime, incoming flights were diverted to airports in Kyushu, and even US Air Force Kadena Air Base.

Naha International Airport serves the civilian population of Okinawa’s largest island, and the thousands of visitors who flock to the sub-tropical island daily. It is the only international airport in the chain of islands that makes up Okinawa Prefecture.

The airport is also used by Japan’s ASDF. As the closest ASDF base to the Senkaku Islands, jets are frequently scrambled from Naha in response to approaches to the disputed islands by rival claimant, China. According to Japan’s Defense Ministry, around 70% of such responses are made from Naha International Airport.

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