YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan -- Since the exercise Keen Sword 19 last year, Airmen from the 374th Operations Group, Yokota Air Base, and Soldiers from the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force, 1st Airborne Brigade, kept a focus on strengthening ties between the two by executing airborne proficiency operations with combat readiness and interoperability.
The two military forces just completed jump training at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, during the exercise Arctic Aurora, June 2019. Both members met again at Yokota Air Base to conduct jump training observed by U.S. Air Force Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape (SERE) specialists form the 374th Operations Support Squadron on JGSDF Hiju-dai drop zone, Oita prefecture, Japan, July 16, 2019.
“Bilateral training missions are important because they improve the working relationship between the U.S. crewmembers and our host nation partners.” said Capt. Evan Taylor, 36 AS C-130J pilot and a mission commander. “Also, they allow unique training opportunities for both allies as we share different techniques from those normally utilized.”
The training mission: Over 80 JGSDF paratroopers boarded two USAF C-130J Super Hercules at Yokota AB and flew over the Japan Air Self-Defense Force (JASDF) Tsuiki Air Base at Fukuoka prefecture. The JGSDF paratroopers geared up there and conducted airdrop training from the C-130Js.
“A valuable lesson from this training mission was coordinating with the JGSDF to employ an airdrop procedure called a Verbally Initiated Release System (VIRS), which the USAF does not typically employ.” said Taylor. “Usually, U.S. C-130Js use a Computed Air Release Point (CARP) technique to airdrop paratroopers, where the plane’s computer automatically analyzes winds and guides pilots to fly to a point in space to begin the airdrop.”
The VIRS is a method where a ground controller analyzes the drop zone winds, then directs the aircraft using radio communications to fly over a pre-determined point, and then commands “execute execute execute” to begin an airdrop operation.
“The ability to operate with the JGSDF allowed U.S. crewmembers a unique opportunity to employ an airdrop technique during the airdrop training mission that U.S. crews do not normally get to practice.” said Taylor.
USAF SERE specialists assigned to the 374 OSS assisted as jumpmasters during the airdrop training mission.
“There is really no issues working with the JGSDF paratroopers. They communicate well on the aircraft and use the same signals as we do.” said Tech. Sgt. Seth Sarrett, 374 OSS SERE specialist and jumpmaster. “It was good training for both sides and no simple feat with 80 jumpers from two C-130Js on a tactical DZ.”
Overall, the training mission was a success. The 36 AS crewmembers were able to drop all of the JGSDF paratroopers, using two different airdrop procedures. Also the training improved interoperability between USAF and JGSDF.
“This training enables further understanding of our allies’ capabilities and strengthen bonds between our forces.” said Taylor.