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NEWS | Aug. 31, 2020

U.S. Air Force, Japan Air Self-Defense Force Strengthen Agile Combat Employment Capabilities

By Staff Sgt. Grace Nichols Fifth Air Force

CHITOSE AIR BASE, Japan -- U.S. Air Force and the Japan Air Self-Defense Force Airmen conducted bilateral training centered on honing defensive counter-air and Agile Combat Employment capabilities and developing Multi-Capable Airmen during an Aviation Training Relocation event at Chitose Air Base, Japan, 24 through 28 Aug. 2020.

Led by Fifth Air Force, the training incorporated Airmen and aircraft from the U.S. Air Force, Pacific Air Forces Command's 35th Fighter Wing, 374th Airlift Wing and 18th Wing, alongside the Japan Air Self-Defense Force Air Defense Command's 2nd Air Wing and the Air Support Command's 1st Tactical Airlift Group, 2nd Tactical Airlift Group, and 3rd Tactical Airlift Group.

Overall, U.S. Air Force participants included approximately 200 personnel with six F-15 Eagles from the 67th Fighter Squadron and six F-16 Fighting Falcons from the 13th Fighter Squadron that relocated to Chitose.

“This Chitose Aviation Training Relocation provided a tremendous opportunity for the 67th Fighter Squadron’s operations, maintenance and support personnel to practice and perfect Agile Combat Employment capabilities with our U.S. Forces Japan and Koku-Jieitai partners," said Lt Col. Craig Van Beusekom, 67th Fighter Squadron commander. “Here at Chitose, we demonstrated deployable, secure communications and empowered bilateral personnel to refuel a U.S. Air Force F-15, F-16, and Koku-Jieitai F-15J Eagle aircraft with airlift-deployable fuel bladders.”

Putting Airmen in scenarios outside their regular daily duties is central to the ACE concept, which calls for Airmen to be proficient in many skills necessary to support air operations. Creating a force of “multi-capable Airmen” reduces the personnel footprint required to disperse forces, enabling a faster, more efficient response to any potential threats.

“The MCA concept was implemented by utilizing multiple career fields and merging them into performing each other's duties,” said Master Sgt. Stephen Morin, 13th Aircraft Maintenance Unit’s production superintendent. “For instance, we had specialists, such as avionics, learning how to launch [aircraft] and then performing those actions, enabling us to free up other specialties to continue working on arising situations.”

In addition, training accomplished on-site tested U.S. Air Force and Japan Air Self-Defense Force partners' ability to work together and teach each other new skill sets with members performing bilateral security, maintenance and refueling operations.

Prioritizing the training while managing a cautious approach with regard to COVID-19 for participants’ safety proved valuable based on the accomplishments for both U.S. Air Force and Koku-Jieitai members.

"Continuing to train alongside our Japanese allies despite the challenges presented by COVID-19 is absolutely necessary to maintain strong bilateral interoperability and readiness to support the defense of Japan," said Col. Brandon McBrayer, Director of Operations and Plans for Fifth Air Force and the principal officer in charge of training operations during the Chitose Aviation Training Relocation.

"Airmen observed strict preventative measures to mitigate the risk of COVID-19 infection and were able to take full advantage of the opportunity to strengthen bilateral ACE capabilities, further ensuring our ability to maintain peace and security in the Indo-Pacific.”

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