|Yokota Air Base|
|Part of Pacific Air Forces (PACAF)|
|Located near: Fussa, Tokyo, Japan|
The air traffic control tower at Yokota Air Base
|Controlled by||United States Air Force|
374th Airlift Wing (USAF)
Yokota Air Base
|Elevation AMSL||463 ft / 141 m|
Yokota Air Base (, ( Yokota Hik?j?)IATA: OKO, ICAO: RJTY) is a United States Air Force (USAF) and Japan Air Self-Defense Force (JASDF) base in the city of Fussa, a city in the Tama Area, or Western Tokyo.
The base houses 14,000 personnel. It occupies a total area of 7.07 km2 (2.73 sq mi) and has a 3,353 m × 61 m (11,001 ft × 200 ft) runway.
Among the bases' facilities are the broadcast center for the American Forces Network, Tokyo radio service, and a detachment of Pacific Air Forces' Band of the Pacific and the headquarters of United States Forces Japan.
The host unit at Yokota is the 374th Airlift Wing and is currently used for airlift missions throughout East Asia. The 374th includes four groups: operations, mission support, maintenance and medical. Each group manages a various number of squadrons in order to carry out the wing's mission.
It is not uncommon to see a KC-135 Stratotanker, C-135 Stratolifter, C-5 Galaxy, KC-10 Extender, KC-767, KC-46 Pegasus, C-130, DC-8, C-17, L-100, Boeing 747, civilian charter airline aircraft (Omni Air International, Air Transport International etc.) and cargo (Atlas Air, Kalitta Air etc.) on military charters on the Transient Aircraft ramp.
The newly renovated Air Mobility Command (AMC) Passenger Terminal is on the main part of the base next to the flightline. It is a 5 to 7-minute walk from the Kanto Lodge (see below) and offers Space-Available flights to various destinations in PACAF such as Alaska, Guam, Hawaii, Korea, Okinawa, Singapore, as well as the Continental United States.
The facility which houses Yokota Air Base was originally constructed by the Imperial Japanese Army (IJA) in 1940 as Tama Airfield, and used as a flight test center. During World War II Yokota became the center of Japanese Army Air Forces flight test activities and the base was the site of the first meeting between Japanese and Italian wartime allies.
Tama was first identified by United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) in November 1944 by a 3d Reconnaissance Squadron F-13 Superfortress photo-reconnaissance aircraft, flying from Tinian in the Mariana Islands. It was identified as being associated with a nearby Musashino-Nakajima aircraft manufacturing plant. Along with the Showa Air Base to the northwest, and Tachikawa Air Base to the east, it was compared to the aircraft development complex of the USAAF Wright-Patterson Field in Ohio. According to the USAAF intelligence at the time, the three bases conducted all IJA flight testing. In the spring of 1945, XXI Bomber Command attacked the base eight times along with the aircraft manufacturing plant, but each time heavy clouds forced the bombers to attack secondary targets. The Nakajima plant was finally attacked in April 1945, but the Tama airfield never was bombed.
With the Surrender of Japan on 2 September 1945, a detachment of the United States Army 1st Cavalry Division arrived at the base on 4 September. The airfield's buildings were largely intact, and some 280 of the IJA's most modern aircraft were discovered in hangars.
The 1st Cavalry named the facility Fussa Army Airfield, then at the end of September renamed it Yokota Army Airfield (the name appeared on a 1944 US map, taken from a village which has since been incorporated in neighboring Musashimurayama.)
The name was to have been changed to Wilkins Army Air Base (WAAB) after Medal of Honor recipient Raymond "Ray" Wilkins, but orders for this never arrived and it remained under the name Yokota until the USAAF became the USAF in 1947, at which point it became Yokota Air Base. Some metal manhole covers stamped "WAAB" remain in use around the base as of 2017.
The initial USAAF use for the base was for airlift operations when the 2d Combat Cargo Group arrived with four C-47 Skytrain squadrons. When the old runway deteriorated under heavy usage, the runway was repaired and Yokota supported operations of the A-26 Invader-equipped 3d Bombardment Group by August 1946. Additional construction during the 1940s and 1950s was completed and the base reached its current size around 1960.
During the initial postwar occupation years, Yokota hosted the following known USAAF/USAF units:
These units performed photographic reconnaissance and mapping of Japan and South Korea.
During the Korean War, Yokota was used for combat missions over North and South Korea. Known units based there were:
With the Korean War reaching an armistice in July 1953, Yokota Air Base returned to a peacetime Cold War status. Two major wings were stationed at the base during the 1950s, the 67th Reconnaissance Wing (1956-60) flying RF-80s, RF-84s and lastly RF-101s.:106 The 35th Fighter-Interceptor Wing (1954-57) flew F-86 Sabres from the base.:106 A Tactical Air Command (TAC) air refueling unit, the 421st Air Refueling Squadron flew KB-29s,and later KB-50Js from Yokota from 1953-65. All of these units were under the command of the 41st Air Division.
The 35th TFW was reassigned in 1957 and the 67th TRW in 1960. Defense budget restrictions in the late 1950s caused several PACAF wings based in Japan to be reassigned or inactivated. These tactical fighter units were replaced by the B-57 equipped 3rd Bombardment Wing where it trained in bombardment, reconnaissance and aerial refueling operations. The Air Defense Command 40th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron (December 1961 - May 1962) equipped with the F-102 Delta Dagger performing an air defense mission.
The Vietnam War resulted in an increased combat and airlift aircraft presence at the base. Yokota was used for ferrying B-52 Stratofortresses to Southeast Asia along with being a base for US-based deployed F-105 Thunderchief 35th, 36th and 80th Tactical Fighter Squadrons. The 610th Military Airlift Support Squadron (1966-78) was created by Military Airlift Command (MAC) to service the large increase in transiting airlift. The 65th Military Airlift Support Group (1969-71) was a headquarters organization for MAC airlift support squadrons in the Pacific and Far East.
The F-105 squadrons deployed frequently to USAF-operated bases in Thailand to fly combat missions over North and South Vietnam, and to South Korea for alert missions. Initially the fighter squadrons were under the command of the 41st Air Division, shortly after reassigned to the 6441st Tactical Fighter Wing, activated in April 1965 to control the F-105 squadrons after their parent organization, the 8th Tactical Fighter Wing, relocated to George Air Force Base, California, to become an F-4 Phantom II unit. With the reassignment of the 347th Fighter Wing to Yokota in 1968, the 347th assumed responsibility for all tactical fighters until its reassignment to Kunsan Air Base, South Korea, in March 1971.:183
In 1971, all combat squadrons were transferred to Kadena and Misawa Air Base and Yokota became a non-flying station hosted by the 475th Air Base Wing.:264 The 475th had no numbered flying squadrons, but operated a few T-39 Saberliners and UH-1 helicopters, along with supporting transient MAC cargo and passenger aircraft. Assigned flying squadrons returned to Yokota in 1975 when the 345th Tactical Airlift Squadron was assigned with its C-130Es.
In 2005, the Japanese government announced that the headquarters of the Japan Air Self-Defense Force would be moved to Yokota.
The Tokyo Metropolitan Government has advocated opening Yokota to civilian flights as a method of relieving traffic at Haneda and Narita Airport. Governor Shintaro Ishihara raised the joint-use proposal during the 2003 gubernatorial election, and Governor Naoki Inose made comments in 2013 that suggested joint use as a possible solution to cope with visitor demand during the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo.
In April 2010 Colonel Frank Eppich, the USAF commander of base, banned screenings of the film The Cove at the base theater. A base spokesman said that The Cove was banned because using a base venue to display the film could be seen as an endorsement of the film. The spokesman added, "We have a lot of issues with Japan...and anything done on an American base would be seen as an approval of that event."
Personnel and aircraft from the base assisted with Operation Tomodachi following and during the March 2011 T?hoku earthquake and tsunami and Fukushima I nuclear accidents. The base also served as an important hub for airlifted assistance during the disaster recovery efforts. During the crisis, around 600 American family members voluntarily departed the base for locations outside Japan.
On March 21, 2012 JASDF units completed moving from Fuch? Air Base (Tokyo). On March 26 JASDF Yokota Air Base started operations.
James Mattis arrived at the base in February 2017 during his first overseas trip as Secretary of Defense.Donald Trump arrived at the base at the start of his first visit to Asia since becoming US President.
On April 5, 2018 five CV-22 Osprey tiltrotor aircraft deployed to the base. They had originally been scheduled to deploy to Yokota in 2020, but the deployment was brought forward. As the first permanent deployment of the aircraft outside of Okinawa the move sparked local protests. The number of aircraft will eventually reach 10.
Resistance to the air base immediately followed the end of US occupation. Gravel used in the construction of the airfields was taken from the Tama River, lowering the riverbed and affecting the traditional irrigation system (Fuch?-y?sui), which had provided water to local communities since the early Edo period. The base also caused great stress to nearby inhabitants in a number of other ways, such as fuel leaks and spills that contaminated groundwater and well water; foul odors and fires, deafening noise pollution and repeated plane crashes. Although local leaders succeeded in bringing about the return of land that had been taken for a base in Tachikawa, at Yokota the number of departures and landings per year reached 20,000. Pilot training that simulated landing jets on aircraft carriers was also held several times each year, often throughout the night. Because such training, together with the engine testing and daily flights, created a level of noise pollution that local inhabitants found unbearable, numerous lawsuits were filed against the Japanese and U.S. governments, calling for a halt in flights and compensation for damages caused by the noise pollution. At present, a small fraction of the compensation demanded for past damages appears likely to be awarded. "Yokota Airbase Pollution Lawsuit No. 9," filed on December 12, 2012 and "New Yokota Airbase Pollution Lawsuit No. 2," filed on March 26, 2013, are currently being disputed.
The 374th Force Support Squadron is responsible for providing an enhanced quality of life, facilities and programs for 11,000 military, civilian and dependents as well as 150,000 transient personnel per year. The 374th Force Support Squadron provides manpower and personnel support, membership clubs, child development, youth programs, food service, lodging, sports/fitness, recreation/leisure activities, comprehensive readiness program, marketing/publicity, linen exchange, and mortuary operations for Yokota AB.
Each year in September, Yokota Air Base opens the gates to the Japanese community for its annual Friendship Festival. For two days, local residents can learn about Yokota Air Base. Food and events are provided for all ages. Roughly 200,000 visitors show up each year, although non-Japanese visitors may be turned away from the gates for security reasons.
For those two days, visitors are able to examine many types of aircraft and even tour some of the large cargo planes from inside.
Higher educational opportunities for those in the military and working for the Department of Defense, as well as for family members at Yokota are available through several contracted academic institutions. For example:
The base was the setting of Almost Transparent Blue, a best-selling novel written by Ryu Murakami and published in 1976 as well as the anime Blood the Last Vampire and the short film Baby Blue from Genius Party, directed by Shinichiro Watanabe (Cowboy Bebop, Samurai Champloo). Yokota Air Base and its surrounding area were the central location for the 2006 movie Sugar and Spice. It is also the setting of parts of The Yokota Officers Club : A Novel by Sarah Bird. The base is also the birthplace of US Marine Captain, former UFC fighter and Fox Sports analyst Brian Stann. The base was also briefly featured in the 2016 biopic Snowden as one of Edward Snowden's workplaces.
This article incorporates public domain material from the Air Force Historical Research Agency website http://www.afhra.af.mil/. Some of the text in this article was taken from pages on the Yokota Air Base website, which as a work of the U.S. Government is presumed to be a public domain resource. That information was supplemented by: