Cold War Samurai – The 14th Tactical Fighter Squadron, 1987 – 1991

This site's the panther's roar! Photo of 549 courtesy of Mr. Akira Watanabe of nabe3saviation.web.fc2.com

14TFS Samurai Beginnings

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The emblem of the 14th Tactical Fighter Squadron

The emblem of the USAF’s 14th Tactical Fighter Squadron, 1987 – 1991

The origins of the 14TFS Samurai presence at Misawa Air Base go back to the Cold War, that great struggle between democracy and communism, between freedom and tyranny. Although there were many crises and incidents in the period following World War II, the Iranian hostage crisis and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan were unsettling events for an America already bruised by the Vietnam War and its outcome.

In November, 1980, Americans elected Ronald W. Reagan as the nation’s 40th president. It was during the Reagan years that a post-Vietnam American military, neglected and in need of revitalization, was rebuilt and built up in light of the ever-present threat of communist arms and expansion of influence.

Given the good relations between the US and Japan, especially so during the Reagan-Nakasone era, the USAF developed a plan to reintroduce tactical aircraft at Misawa Air Base in northern Japan, from which such aircraft had been absent since 1971 after the drawdowns of the Vietnam War. At least one source indicates that the A-10 was considered, but that changed and the tank-busting aircraft instead went to Suwon Air Base, Korea, in January, 1982.

Prime Minister Nakasone and President Reagan review troops in Tokyo, May, 1986 (Courtesy Wikipedia)

Prime Minister Nakasone and President Reagan review troops in Tokyo, May, 1986 (Courtesy Wikipedia)

USAF planning continued, and with the approval of the Government of Japan, the United States worked out an agreement for tactical aircraft at Misawa. On 30 September 1982, Fifth Air Force announced intent to base F-16s fighters at Misawa. This announcement was in conjunction with a 30 September meeting in Washington, D.C. between U.S. Defense Secretary Caspar W. Weinberger and Japanese Defense Minister Soichiro Ito. The two signed an agreement the same day which provided for up to 50 F-16s to be stationed at Misawa.

“The U.S. Defense Department Sept. 30 released a statement saying that the “proposed deployment of the multi-mission F-16 would improve the military balance in the Far East, demonstrate U.S. commitment to mutual defense in the Far East and enhance the deterrence strength of the U.S.-Japan security relationship.”

The statement maintained that the plan did not signal a change in U.S. strategy in the Pacific, but was designed to “correct a deficiency in U.S. tactical air power which has been brought about by the Soviet build-up in the Far East.”

An Air Force spokesman added that the Pacific region was to take on a greater importance in U.S. military strategy “to assume a more global perspective.” He argued that the U.S. build-up of air power in northern Asia was necessary because the U.S. had only a “relatively small force” there, although it was of sufficient quality.

The spokesman contended that the Soviet Union had three times as many fighters on its Pacific coast as the U.S. had in its entire Pacific force.” (Source: Japan: U.S. to Station Jets on Honshu)

The decision to again base fighters in Misawa soon appeared to be a prudent move, bolstering the US-Japan alliance as tensions with the Soviet Union escalated. A scant year later, on 1 September 1983, the tragic loss of Korean Air Lines Flight 007 occurred. The B-747 jumbo jet was shot down by Soviet interceptor aircraft after it accidentally strayed into communist airspace. This was a flash point in the Cold War.

A Soviet Su-15 FLAGON interceptor, based at Dolinsk-Sokol Airfield on Sakhalin Island,  fires upon Korean Air Lines Flight 007, 1 September 1983 (Courtesy AF Magazine, Illustration by Zaur Eylanbekov)

A Soviet Su-15 FLAGON interceptor, based at Dolinsk-Sokol Airfield on Sakhalin Island, fires upon Korean Air Lines Flight 007, 1 September 1983 (Courtesy AF Magazine, Illustration by Zaur Eylanbekov)

On 1 July 1984, the 432d Tactical Fighter Wing activated at Misawa Air Base. The 13TFS activated next at Misawa on 1 June 1985 and was initially equipped with the F-16A (received from Shaw AFB as Shaw received newer F-16s). After a 14 year absence, USAF fighters again were based at Misawa.

432TFW flagship F-16A Block 15 serial number 83-1115 and wingman cruise over the ocean (Courtesy F-16.net, photo by Katsuhiko Tokunaga)

432TFW flagship F-16A Block 15 serial number 83-1115 and a 13TFS wingman cruise over the ocean (Courtesy F-16.net, photo by Katsuhiko Tokunaga)

Last but not least, and fulfilling the 1982 agreement, the 14TFS was activated at Misawa on 1 January 1987 – the Samurai had arrived!

14TFS F-16C Block 30 serial number 85-1560 is ready for a sortie at Misawa AB, Japan in September, 1987.  Note the small, blue BDU-33 practice bombs mounted on a triple ejector rack beneath the wing, for use at the nearby Ripsaw Range just north of the base. (Courtesy NABE3's Aviation Photo Gallery)

14TFS F-16C Block 30 serial number 85-1560 is ready for a sortie at Misawa AB, Japan in September, 1987. Note the small, blue BDU-33 practice bombs mounted on a triple ejector rack beneath the wing, for use at the nearby Ripsaw Range just north of the base. (Courtesy Mr. Akira Watanabe of NABE3’s Aviation Photo Gallery)

References

“History of Misawa Air Base,” accessed at: http://www.misawajapan.com/aboutmisawa/then-now.asp

“Japan, the U.S. and South Korea: A New Alliance Takes Shape,” The Multinational Monitor, February 1983 – Volume 4 – Number 2, accessed at: http://www.multinationalmonitor.org/hyper/issues/1983/02/shorrock-alliance.html

“Japan: U.S. to Station Jets on Honshu,” accessed at: http://www.stanford.edu/…/2229-1982-10-15-FoF-a-SJJ.doc

Korean Air Lines Flight 007, Wikipedia entry, at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Korean_Air_Lines_Flight_007

Grier, Peter, “The Death of Korean Air Lines Flight 007,” AF Magazine, January, 2013, at:  http://www.airforcemag.com/magazinearchive/pages/2013/january%202013/0113korean.aspx

14TFS F-16C Block 30 85-1560 image at:  http://nabe3saviation.web.fc2.com/aF161u.html

432TFW F-16A Flagship photo at:  http://www.f-16.net/g3/f-16-photos/album38/album69/83-1115_003

432TFW Lineage and Honors Fact Sheet, accessed at: http://www.afhra.af.mil/factsheets/factsheet.asp?id=15166

13TFS Lineage and Honors Fact Sheet, accessed at: http://www.misawa.af.mil/library/factsheets/factsheet.asp?id=6963

14TFS Lineage and Honors Fact Sheet, accessed at: http://www.afhra.af.mil/factsheets/factsheet_print.asp?fsID=9807

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