KOMATSU AIR BASE, Japan –
More than 120 Airmen from Misawa Air Base, Japan, and pilots from the 35th Fighter Wing's 14th Fighter Squadron arrived here Nov. 7-9 to conduct training with the Japanese Air Self Defense Force as part of the Aviation Training Relocation Program.
Implemented in 2006, the ATR program allows U.S. and Japanese forces to further enhance their interoperability and joint partnership by conducting training away from the U.S. forces' home station, while also providing a noise respite for those living near the U.S. Air Force installations of the units participating in ATRs throughout Japan.
The 35 FW Wild Weasels participate in the program two to four times per year, depending on U.S. and Japan aviation training and deployment schedules.
While at Komatsu, the 14 FS works directly with Japan Air Self Defense Force operations and maintenance personnel to conduct mission planning, briefing, flight execution and debriefing.
Even more, the bilateral training conducted during this specific ATR is in concurrence with Keen Sword -- an exercise held once every two years to test the way U.S. and Japanese forces work together.
According to Lt. Col. Jeffrey Cohen, 14 FS commander, building trust on this level is the foundation for trust and confidence at the operational and strategic levels, both of which are necessary to ensure a strong relationship between both countries.
"Modern technology and tactics are complex, and close integration with our Japanese partners allows us to recognize deficiencies and point toward solutions," Cohen said. "The intent is to identify breakdowns in integration, interoperability and tactics so we don't experience them during actual combat operations. This also helps our operators at the tactical level build trust and confidence in our Japanese partners."
Lt. Gen. Toshiya Okabe, Japanese Ground Self Defense Force deputy chief of joint staff, was on hand to watch F-16s take off for the first day of ATR missions and received a brief detail of the F-16's capabilities from Cohen and maintainers.
"I feel that our partnership with U.S. forces is very tight and they are very well trained," Okabe said. "The F-16 is an aircraft I have always been interested in for the missions it does. Lieutenant Colonel Cohen said this is his fifth time participating in a bilateral exercise with Japan Self-Defense Forces, so it is very reassuring to have them as a partner."
Although the ATR and Keen Sword are two separate events, the 14 FS's mission as suppression of enemy air defenses and defensive/offensive counterair will stay the same throughout training.
"I am excited for the pilots in my squadron to gain experience flying at a new airfield, in new airspace, with new procedures," Cohen said. "This environment will provide several large force employment events which simulate combat realism. I expect all deployed 14th Fighter Squadron personnel to maximize their opportunity to learn from their Japanese counterparts."