Following a stand-down at Kadena Air Base in Japan, F-15 training flights are scheduled to restart Wednesday.
The halt in sorties occurred after one of the base’s F-15C Eagles crashed into the ocean south of Okinawa.
Kadena officials still don’t know what caused the crash, but remain confident it does not reflect an issue with the other F-15s on base. An investigation board intends to further study the evidence from the mishap to find the cause.
The pilot of that crashed F-15 was rescued after managing to eject. He was transferred to the U.S. Naval Hospital at Camp Foster and was originally listed in serious condition, according to a Monday press release from the 18th Wing at Kadena.
“As of this morning, the pilot's status has been updated to fair condition,” the Kadena Air Base Twitter account posted Monday evening. “We wish him a speedy recovery.“
After the crash, all F-15s at Kadena underwent inspection, according to a second release on Tuesday.
Senior, experienced pilots and maintainers reviewed the initial facts and circumstances surrounding the F-15 mishap and are reportedly confident that the incident does not indicate a problem with the overall safety of Kadena’s F-15 fleet, according to the 18th Wing’s statement.
"In the last 24 hours, we've inspected all of our F-15s, and we are confident they are safe to resume training," said Col. Richard Tanner, 18th Wing vice commander. “At the same time, we have reinforced the importance of safety and adherence to flight regulations with all of our pilots.”
"Our mission is to defend Japan and maintain regional security," Tanner added. "The safety of our pilots, our base population and our surrounding communities remains our top priority as we meet our Alliance obligations."
The F-15 that crashed was assigned to the 44th Fighter Squadron at Kadena. The pilot crashed at roughly 6:26 a.m. local time during what the wing described as a routine training mission.
A Japanese search and rescue team from Naha Air Base, Okinawa, recovered the downed pilot.
“I would like to personally thank the Naha Rescue Squadron for their quick response this morning, which led to the safe recovery of our airman,” Tanner said in his statement immediately after the crash. “I sincerely appreciate the strong support of our Japanese partners in this difficult situation.”
The Air Force has suffered a wave of aviation mishaps this year, which prompted the service’s leadership to order all flying and maintenance wings to conduct a one-day safety stand-down in order to collect more data and determine the source of the issue.
Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Dave Goldfein ordered the safety stand-down, but does not feel the string of mishaps are indicative of an “aviation crisis.”
“If you take a look at the overall numbers, we’re not that far out of whack. It’s a time issue, it’s not a numbers issue,” Goldfein said in interviews during his trip to the Warrior Games at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs in early June.
“I’ve not seen anything that would indicate to me that we’re in a crisis mode,” he added.
Kyle Rempfer is an editor and reporter whose investigations have covered combat operations, criminal cases, foreign military assistance and training accidents. Before entering journalism, Kyle served in U.S. Air Force Special Tactics and deployed in 2014 to Paktika Province, Afghanistan, and Baghdad, Iraq.