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United Kingdom and Japan Hold First-Ever Joint Fighter Exercise

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Asia Defense

United Kingdom and Japan Hold First-Ever Joint Fighter Exercise

For the first time since the end of World War II, British fighter aircraft are ‘targeting’ Japanese warplanes.

United Kingdom and Japan Hold First-Ever Joint Fighter Exercise
Credit: US Air Force

The UK Royal Air Force (RAF) and the Japan Air Self-Defense Force (JASDF) kicked off their first-ever joint aerial combat drill, dubbed Guardian North 16, on 23 October, according to the UK Ministry of Defense. It is the first time that the JASDF is conducting an exercise with a foreign power other than the United States.

The UK-Japan first-ever joint air combat drill involves four RAF Eurofighter Typhoon fighter jets and a number of Boeing F-15J all-weather air superiority fighters (built under license by Japanese defense contractor Mitsubishi Heavy Industries) and Mitsubishi F-2s, a 4.5 generation multirole fighter jet based on Lockheed Martin’s F-16.

The JASDF F-15 fighters participating in the drill are from the Northern Air Defense Force (Chitose) Air Base (Hokkaido), whereas the F-2 aircraft are from Northern Air Defense Force, Misawa Air Base, in the northern part of the island of Honshu, where the RAF Eurofighter Typhoon fighter jets arrived on October 22.

“I know that we will work together, I know that we will learn together. But most importantly I know that we will make friendships that will tie us together more closely in the future.” RAF Wing Commander Roger Elliott, the pilot of the first jet to land at Misawa Air Base said at a formal arrival ceremony last Saturday.

Around 170 RAF support personnel, Voyager tanker aircraft, C-17 Globemaster as well as C-130 Hercules military transport aircraft are supporting the RAF’s “most ambitious” deployment “ever involving the Typhoon force, and probably the most ambitious deployment the air force has done to the far east,” according to Elliot.

The joint aerial combat drill is set to last until early November.

“The purpose of this exercise is to enhance tactical skills of Japan Air Self-Defense Force unit and strengthen Japan-UK defense cooperation. We have no specific country or region in our mind,” Japan’s Ministry of Defense told The Guardian.

The United Kingdom and Japan agreed to the exercise at the Foreign and Defense Ministers Dialogue (2+2) held in Tokyo in January (See: “Great Britain and Japan to Deepen Defense Cooperation”). “Japan is our closest security partner in Asia and I want to significantly deepen defense cooperation between our two nations,” U.K. Defense Secretary, Michael Fallon, said in January. “We will do that through joint exercises, reciprocal access to our military bases, military personnel exchanges and cooperation on equipment, including a new air-to-air missile.”

Following Guardian North 16, the RAF Eurofighter Typhoons will take part in a trilateral aerial combat drill, dubbed Invincible Shield, in South Korea involving the Republic of Korea Air Force and United States Air Force. “Through the exercise, the three countries will be able to bolster the interoperability of their military arsenals and joint operational capabilities in the event of conflict breaking out on the Korean peninsula,” a Republic of Korea Air Force spokesperson told Yonhap news agency.