Six F/A-18 Hornets and crews have arrived at the Chitose Air Base in Japan for the first bilateral air combat exercise between the Japan Air Self-Defense Force (Kōkū Jieitai) and the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF).
Kōkū Jieitai personnel lined the hardstand of Chitose Air Base and proudly displayed their unit flags to welcome the Air Force and mark the official commencement of Exercise Bushido Guardian on September 20.
In his welcome address, the 2nd Air Wing Commander, Major General Koichi Tokushige, said the base had been looking forward to the exercise. Last year’s training was postponed following the 2018 Hokkaido earthquake.
“I hope to deepen further the Japan-Australia defence relationship through this exercise,” Major General Tokushige said.
“Let’s make Bushido Guardian a fruitful one and enjoy it.”
The RAAF detachment commander, and commanding officer of No. 77 Squadron, Wing Commander Jason Easthope, said it was an honour and a privilege to receive such a reception.
“We are all part of the history records today, as together we begin the first ever bilateral air combat exercise between our forces,” Wing Commander Easthope said.
“We look forward to working alongside the Kōkū Jieitai, learning from each other and making new friendships.
“We look forward to experiencing your amazing culture, taste your wonderful food and, of course, try to speak some of your language.”
The journey to Japan was made extra special as both the F/A-18s and personnel travelling on the KC-30 Multi-Role Tanker Transport aircraft witnessed a spectacular view of Mount Fuji through the clouds.
Exercise Bushido Guardian will be conducted at Chitose Air Base, in Hokkaido, and Misawa Air Base, in Honshu, from September 11 to October 8.
The Air Force has deployed 140 personnel from across the Air Mobility Group, the Air Combat Group, the Surveillance and Response, and the Combat Support Group to the exercise.
The training is the realisation of a long-held ambition to expand Australia’s defence cooperation to include a bilateral air combat exercise. It represents a significant step forward in the defence relationship between Australia and Japan.