British and Japanese combat jets are involved in a history-making military exercise that has now started in Japan.
Never before has Japan’s Air Self Defense Force trained alongside another air arm that’s not the USAF. Exercise Guardian North 16 is changing all that and it follows other recent East-West military milestones including the JASDF’s first-time UK airshow participation back in 2012.
From the RAF, four Eurofighter Typhoon FGR4 multirole fighters are taking part in Guardian North 16. Japan’s involvement comprises Mitsubishi F-2 multirole fighters and F-15J air superiority fighters.
Guardian North 16 will give both nations’ service personnel interaction, training and learning opportunities. The Typhoon visit also gives Japanese defence officials the chance to inspect up-close a cutting-edge jet fighter just as they consider next-generation JASDF combat aircraft options. The exercise additionally coincides with the official Royal Air Force Aerobatic Team (RAFAT), the Red Arrows’, lengthy Far Eastern tour that includes first-time performances in China.
“This exercise is tremendously important and it demonstrates that even though the Royal Air Force is committed to operations in the Middle East and elsewhere…”, commented Sir Stephen Hillier, Chief of the Air Staff, “…we still have the capability to deploy effectively to the other side of the world, with both Typhoons, supporting Voyagers and air transport, and the Red Arrows as well. This reinforces the message that the UK is a globally-engaged player with global power, reinforcing our relationship with allies, and also promoting UK prosperity.”
Guardian North Exercise
Guardian North 16's participating Typhoons are operated by No 2 (AC) Squadron based at RAF Lossiemouth, Moray, Scotland. Their arrival at JASDAF Misawa Air Base, on Japan’s Honshu Island, followed a non-stop flight from Malaysia, covering a distance of 3,500 miles. There to greet them as they arrived was Major General Koji Imaki, JASDAF Misawa Air Base’s commander. “Welcome to Japan, welcome to Guardian North”, he told the RAF visitors. “We look forward to working side by side with you in this epoch-making exercise. Enjoy the long, long history of Northern Japan.”
In the first-landing Typhoon’s cockpit was OC (Officer Commanding) 2 (AC) Squadron, Wing Commander Roger Elliott. “Thank you for such an amazing welcome here to Misawa Air Base”, he said. “I’m absolutely positive that all members of my Squadron and detachment from across the Royal Air Force, will have a tremendous experience with the JASDF. I know that we will work together, I know that we will learn together. But most importantly I know that we will make friendships that will tie us together more closely in the future.”
RAF And Japanese Training
The Typhoon FGR4 multirole combat aircraft can perform air-to-air-, air-to-ground and interception sorties. First flown in 1994, the type is produced in both single and two-seat (training) versions.
The Mitsubishi F-2 is an F-16 Fighting Falcon-based multirole fighter that first flew in 1995 and joined the JASDF five years later. It’s also manufactured as a single or two-place aircraft. The F-2s taking part in Guardian North 16 belong to Misawa’s 3rd Tactical Fighting Squadron, part of the 3rd Air Wing. The F-15J is a local-built version of an originally-US design. It equips the 2nd Air Wing which, like the 3rd Air Wing, is a component of the JASDF’s Northern Air Defense Force. Both fall within Air Defense Command.
Other participating assets, besides the Typhoons, F-2s and F-15Js, include RAF C-17 Globemaster III strategic transport aircraft. These will be providing ongoing logistical support while the RAF and Japanese training exercise is in progress.
Another landmark military exercise is scheduled to take place in coming weeks involving the Republic of Korea (South Korean), US and Royal air forces. Taking place in South Korea, this will be a week-long exercise being staged with counter-North Korean goals in mind.
Typhoon FGR4 image copyright USAF – courtesy Wikimedia Commons
Mitsubishi F-2 image copyright USAF – courtesy Wikimedia Commons
Mitsubishi F-15J Eagle image copyright USAF – courtesy Wikimedia Commons