TSUIKI AIR BASE, Japan -- Eighty-five members from various 35th Fighter Wing units forward-deployed alongside six F-16 Fighting Falcons to Tsuiki Air Base, Japan, Nov. 5 to 8 for an aviation training relocation.
“All cargo, personnel and jets landed in the morning then we unloaded, set up operations and had the jets back in the air for the first sortie by the afternoon,” said U.S. Air Force Maj. Eric Foster, the 14th Fighter Squadron A-Flight commander.
Airmen practiced deployed contingency operations and executed bilateral training exercises in a geographically different environment, side-by-side with the Japan Air Self-Defense Force’s 8th Air Wing Mitsubishi F-2s and two aircraft carriers from both the U.S. Navy and Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force fleet during the ATR.
“We walked away with a better understanding of how we interoperate with the JASDF and how the 35th Fighter Wing operates at a foreign air base with minimal assets, relying on the host base to provide us with additional equipment needed to sustain successful operations,” explain Foster.
The major added that the friendships and bonds formed over the week were one of the biggest take-aways from the ATR. They upheld the strong foundation of mutual respect and responsibility held between allies.
Throughout the duration of the relocation, both teams of pilots conducted 36 sorties, focusing on specialized training consisting of bilateral basic fighting maneuvers such as defensive counter air, air-to-air and air-to-ship scenarios.
While basic fighting and air combat tactics hone core concepts of maneuverability and weapon employment as partners, the participation from the USN and JMSDF enhanced air-to-ship simulated engagement, ultimately offering a unique aspect that most of the pilots were unfamiliar with.
“It was my first time experiencing an air-to-ship aspect of the ATR,” said JASDF Capt. Katsuya Takahashi, an 8th Tactical Fighter Squadron F-2 pilot. “Seeing first-hand how the F-16 would escort us to the threat (ship) and how the F-16’s employment of high-speed anti-radiation missile is not only important for air-to-ground but also in air-to-ship missions.”
With the challenging environment the Indo-Pacific region brings, the understanding and alliance between the U.S. and Japan is vital.
"Flying with the F-16s improved our ability to engage different weapons systems and opposing strategies, providing a realistic training environment," said Takahashi. “Our strategic alliance is indispensable to security within this region.”
Foster expressed many thanks to several units across the Pacific Air Forces’ which made this ATR possible. Each challenge was met with dedicated effort and in some cases, unconventional solutions, which resulted in an absolute success.
“Anytime we can train with our JASDF partners, it is beneficial to our working relationship and the overall U.S.-Japan alliance," said Foster. "I am confident both countries walked away with a better understanding of each other’s tactics and capabilities, along with goals for improvement."