Kadena Air Force Base - Spotting Guide - spotterguide.net (2024)

Kadena AFB (RODN/DNA) is a major USAF, US Navy and USMC base in Okinawa, Japan. The airbase spans the towns of Kadena and Chatan and the city of Okinawa. It is the largest and most active U.S. Air Force base in the Far East and a major airbase in the First Island chain.

There are many types of aircraft based: F-35, F-15, P-8A, C-130, C-17, UC-12 and KC-135s. Sometimes there will be flights operated by commercial airlines and foreign militaries. Kadena AFB’s traffic pattern will interfere with nearby Naha airport, so monitoring the commercial aircraft departing or arriving at Naha airport (e.g. circling or altitude limitation) may be a clue to know if there is some traffic not appearing on FR24.

The airbase is noisy while in operation, the roar of F-35 will rock the neighbourhood and you can never miss it.

Written by Martin Yu. Pictures provided by 5947. Last Update: February 2024

Rating
MovementsKadena Air Force Base - Spotting Guide - spotterguide.net (1)
Photo LocationsKadena Air Force Base - Spotting Guide - spotterguide.net (2)
WeatherKadena Air Force Base - Spotting Guide - spotterguide.net (3)
Airport Information
Runways
05L/23R3.688m – Asphalt Concrete
05R/23L3.688m – Asphalt Concrete
TerminalsThere is an AMC Passenger Terminal, but only for Military personnel.
Spotting Information
LadderIt is recommend not to use ladders.
Car/Public TransportAll spots can be reached via public transportation or Cars.
Drinks/FoodFoods and drinks can be accessed via nearby convenience stores and restaurants.
HotelsNo specific spotter hotels around here.
SeasonAll seasons are recommended. There will be less flight on US public holidays and weekends.
SecurityIt is recommended not to take photos directly toward the base gate. At the gate, you will see a yellow line on the ground with the words “Base Boundary/嘉手納基地境界線” written in black on it. Do not cross the line. Please pay attention that if a facility appears on Google Maps doesn’t mean you can reach it. It may be inside a military base.

Runway Usage
General InfoBoth runways are used for departures and arrivals. Fighter aircraft like F-35, tend to approach the runway at a higher altitude, break the formation, then make a low-pass on the runway, go full Mil-thrust or afterburner, make a sharp turn to downwind, and then make a short final to land. It could be really noisy, up to 120 dB. Only runway 05L/23R have ILS, so some larger aircrafts tends to use this one, but not always.
Kadena Air Force Base - Spotting Guide - spotterguide.net (6)Spot #1 – Michi no Eki Kadena – 23 movements
WHEREThere is a public building named “Michi no Eki Kadena”, which has an outside spotting deck on the 4th floor. You can take bus to bus stop Kadenacho Undo Koen Iriguchi (嘉手納町運動公園入口) or go to there by bike or car. There is a free car park there.
WHATYou have a fantastic view from the norther part of the airport. Best for southern operations when runways 23 are in use. Part of the base can be seen in the distance.
TIMEFrom afternoon till sunset. In the winter the sun doesn`t really move to this side. Heat haze might be a problem.
MISC.The opening hours are from: 0830-2200
There are plenty of restaurants on site and a Gift Shop is also on the 1st floor. A small museum is also there and public restrooms are available there. Please note that use of a tripod requires prior approval.
FOCAL LENGTH150mm for C-17 and KC-135, 200mm for C-130, 600mm for F-35 C-2 and Cessna, P-8A =200mm

Kadena Air Force Base - Spotting Guide - spotterguide.net (9)Spot #2 – Road No.74 – 23L/R Arrivals
WHEREThe spot is along the sidewalk of Road No 74, on the northeastern side of the airport. Car parking is possible in a small lay by. The location can be reached from bus stop Daisan Gate (第三ゲート), then a walk along the road.
WHATRunway 23L/R arrivals. If you go to the small mound, you can see the runway entrance of RWY 23L but it is backlit all the time.
TIMEThe whole day, anytime of a year. Just position yourself along the road, depending on the position of the sun.
MISC.Nothing at the spot. Take everything you need to the spot. It is recommended to bring a pair of earplugs as the fighters can be really noisy. It may cause irreversible hearing damage!
FOCAL LENGTHC-17=50mm, F-35=200mm, RC-135=150mm, MQ-9=200mm

Kadena Air Force Base - Spotting Guide - spotterguide.net (11)Spot #3 – Road No.58 – 05L/R Arrivals
WHEREAlmost the same situation as the previous location. The spot is along the sidewalk of Road No 58, on the southwestern side of the airport. It can be reached from bus stop Sunabe (砂辺), then a walk to the spot. Parking is not really possible there. Some locals will park their car on the sidewalk and wait for the plane to come, then drive away immediately.
WHATRunway 05L/R arrivals and some movements inside the airbase.
TIMEThe whole day, anytime of a year. Just position yourself along the road, depending on the position of the sun.
MISC.Nothing at the spot. Take everything you need to the spot. It is recommended to bring a pair of earplugs as the fighters can be really noisy. It may cause irreversible hearing damage
FOCAL LENGTHP-8=150mm, MQ-9=400mm

Kadena Air Force Base - Spotting Guide - spotterguide.net (13)Spot #4 – Sunabe Baba Park – 05L/R Arrivals
WHEREThere is a nice public park near the sea, which has some wood-made spotting platforms. Access to the park is via Road 58. It can be reached from bus stop Sunabe (砂辺) or Sunabe Chukijo(砂辺駐機場), then walk along the road. Parking is possible directly at the park entrance.
WHATRunway 05L/R arrivals only.
TIMEFrom sunrise until late noon. Backlit during summer from afternoon until sunset.
MISC.There are drinks and ice cream vending machines in the park. Some restaurants are also nearby.
FOCAL LENGTH100~300mm depends on which runway the plane is approaching. USAF C-130 landing on 05R = 150mm or less, USMC C-130 landing on 05L = 300mm, P-8A and RC-135 = 150mm
Kadena Air Force Base - Spotting Guide - spotterguide.net (2024)
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