The off-piste F-15 at around 13:15

The off-piste F-15 at around 13:15 (Source: Sankei)

Soon after the announcement from North Korea on the death of Kim Jong-il, an F-15 was ordered to scramble out of Naha Air Base, Okinawa. Its orders were cancelled during take-off and the jet came off the runway and traveled a further 10 meters along the turf. The event forced the closure of the runway from 12:31 to 14:06. The Ministry of Defense has stated that the scramble mission was unrelated to the death of the North Korean leader, but has not stated the actual reason for the scramble.

Regardless of the timing, it is serious incident for the Air Base, which shares its single runway with the civilian Naha Airport. While it is yet another accident involving the ASDF’s F-15s, this does not seem to have been due to equipment malfunction. and the incident is under investigation, including the reason for the cancellation of the take-off.

ASDF Naha Air Base also hosts MSDF and Coast Guard aircraft. The closure of the runway presumably grounded all the aircraft at the base and civilian terminals, and it seems that the incident would have been a major interruption for the civilian side of the facility, which sees 150 flights a day.

In the Google Maps satellite image below, you can see the base’s F-15s on the tarmac to the south of the civilian airport buildings.

[cetsEmbedGmap src=,+Japan&hl=en&ll=26.196749,127.649304&spn=0.003533,0.004136&sll=35.576371,139.655709&sspn=0.10248,0.132351&vpsrc=6&hq=Naha+Airport,+Japan&t=h&z=18 width=600 height=400 marginwidth=0 marginheight=0 frameborder=0 scrolling=no]

Sources: [Sankei Shimbun]  [Ryukyu Shimpo]

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A former contributor to World Intelligence (Japan Military Review), James Simpson joined Japan Security Watch in 2011, migrating with his blog Defending Japan. He has a Masters in Security Studies from Aberystwyth University and is currently living in Kawasaki, Japan. His primary interests include the so-called 'normalization' of Japanese security (i.e. militarization), and the political impact of the abduction issue with North Korea.
James Simpson has 254 post(s) on Japan Security Watch