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NEWS | Nov. 1, 2021

Southern Beach Boosts Lethality, Strengthens Partnerships

By Senior Airman Jessi Monte 18th Wing Public Affairs

KADENA AIR BASE, Japan -- The 18th Operations Group partnered with the Japan Air Self-Defense Force (JASDF) and the 36th Airlift Squadron from Yokota Air Base, Japan, to complete Exercise Southern Beach, Oct. 25-29.

“Southern Beach is a locally organized, bilateral exercise that brings the 18th Wing and JASDF units together to practice leading, mission planning, flying and debriefing with one another,” said U.S. Air Force Capt. Robert Banicki, 18th Operations Support Squadron bilateral integration liaison officer. “This exercise is a continual effort to enhance interoperability between U.S. Forces and host nation partners.”

The large force exercise primarily focused on offensive and defensive counter air operations, personnel rescue, and airdrop missions.

The 44th and 67th Fighter Squadron F-15C Eagles, 909th Air Refueling Squadron KC-135 Stratotankers, 961st Airborne Air Control Squadron E-3 Sentry aircraft, and MC-130J Commando II aircraft assigned to the 353rd Special Operations Wing all participated in the exercise.

JASDF brought their F-15J/DJ Eagles and U-125A and UH-60J aircraft from Naha Airbase, a C-130H from the 1st Tactical Airlift Wing at Komaki Air Base, a C-1 from the 2nd Tactical Airlift Group at Miho Air Base and a C-2 from the 3rd Tactical Airlift Wing at Iruma Air Base.

Japan Aerospace Defense Ground Environment controllers partnered with U.S. forces from the 623rd Air Control Squadron, Marine Air Control Squadron 4, and the 961st Airborne Air Control Squadron, to manage command and control of the exercise.

Past instances of this exercise have taken place during the day, when it’s easier for pilots to orientate themselves, aerial refuel, maintain visual observation of wingmen and spot potential adversaries.

This was the first time since the inception of Southern Beach in which the majority of the mission sets and a Japan-U.S. training program were conducted during night time hours, when low-visibility becomes a factor.

“Wars are not only fought during business hours,” said Banicki. “We need to be excellent at flying and fighting at any time of day, and not just with wing mates, but with partners and allies as well. The more we become a seamless night-fighting force now, the more we will dominate the fight in the future.”

Bilateral training builds trusting relationships among foreign and domestic forces and ensures the 18th Wing and host-nation allies are able to come together to effectively respond to demanding scenarios and execute high-end missions in defense of a free and open Indo-Pacific region.

“Opportunities such as Southern Beach not only help us learn to ‘fight together’ but also facilitate our unit-to-unit integration, both from a planning and execution perspective,” said U.S. Air Force Major Logan Barlow, 18th Operations Group director of staff. “If healthy, human-based mutual understanding can be fostered on a regular basis, sustainable security relationships will continue to be a cornerstone of stability in numerous regions around the globe.”

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