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Australia, Japan to Hold First Joint Air Combat Exercise

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Australia, Japan to Hold First Joint Air Combat Exercise

The Bushido Guardian 2019 exercise will be held from September 11 to October 8 in Japan.

Australia, Japan to Hold First Joint Air Combat Exercise
Credit: Royal Australian Air Force

The Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) and Japan Air Self Defense Force (JASDF) will be holding their first ever joint air combat exercise, codenamed Bushido Guardian 2019, in northern Japan, according to the Australian Department of Defense (DoD).

According to the DoD, up to 150 RAAF personnel, seven F/A-18A/B Hornet fighters, a KC-30A Multi-Role Tanker Transport aircraft, as well as C-17A Globemaster and C-130J Hercules transport aircraft will participate in the exercise.

The RAAF will be stationed at Chitose Air Base in Hokkaido for the duration of the air combat drill, which will last from September 11 to October 8.

Today saw the arrival of a RAAF advance team with the fighter aircraft expected to arrive at the base on September 20.

“This is the first exercise of this nature between our two countries which aims to increase our practical engagement with Japan – a key partner that shares Australia’s commitment to regional peace and security,” Australian Minister of Defense, Linda Reynolds, was quoted as saying.

“Importantly, the exercise will offer all personnel involved the opportunity to build and maintain relationships – a vital contributor to the strength of the Australia-Japan Special Strategic Partnership.”

The Japanese Ministry of Defense (MoD) said in a press statement that the JADF will deploy up to ten Mitsubishi F-15J all-weather air superiority fighters, 215 of which — including the upgraded F-15DJ/F-15J Kai variants — are currently operationally deployed with the service.  Additionally, three F-2 multirole fighter jets, a Mitsubishi license-produced variant of Lockheed Martin’s F-16, of which there are around 90 officially deployed with the service, will participate in the training.

The RAAF operates a fleet of 71 F/A-18A/B Hornet fighters.

“Exercise Bushido Guardian 2019 will offer opportunities for Australia and Japan to not only test and evaluate existing interoperability, but also to increase mutual awareness on force generation requirements including long range deployment and sustainment practices,” Air Commander Australia, Air Vice-Marshal (AVM) Joe Iervasi said in a September 6 statement.

Both the RAAF and JASDF also operate the fifth-generation Lightning II F-35A Joint Strike Fighter. The RAAF took delivery of the first two F-35As at RAAF Base Williamtown in December 2018. The service will receive a total of 72 F-35As at a cost of around A$98 million per fighter jet beginning in 2018 with the entire F-35A fleet expected to reach full operating capability by 2023.

Meanwhile, the JASDF has stood up its first F-35A fighter squadron on March 26. Japan has placed an initial order for 42 fifth-generation fighter jets. In December 2018, the cabinet of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe approved an increase of Japan’s existing order of 42 to 147 F-35 aircraft including an additional 63 F-35As and 42 F-35Bs, the U.S. Marine Corps’ short take-off and vertical landing (STOVL) variant of the aircraft.