Control of the battlespace on Exercise Bushido Guardian was seamlessly integrated as RAAF Air Battle Managers and Air Surveillance Operators sat side-by-side with their Japanese counterparts in the Northern Direction Centre at Misawa, Japan.
A small contingent of 13 Air Force personnel from No. 41 Wing were embedded with Japan Air Self-Defense Force (Koku-Jieitai) personnel at Misawa Air Base performing air battle management functions and supporting airspace management.
Detachment Commander for the Misawa contingent, Wing Commander (WGCDR) Clinton Morris said that the RAAF and Koku-Jieitai were integrated as one force as they controlled F/A-18A/B, F-2A and F-15J aircraft.
“The type of training we’ve been doing with the Koku-Jieitai is control and surveillance activities starting with Basic Fighter Manoeuvres right through to Large Force Employment missions towards the end of the exercise,” WGCDR Morris said.
“We start quite small checking the aircraft in and out of the airspace and work up to those larger force missions that involve a lot of aircraft.
“It’s our role to build and manage the air picture. Here in the Direction Centre we use radars and radios located along the coast of Japan to see out to approximately 200 nautical miles.
“We talk to the fighter pilots directly in the cockpit to describe what’s going on in the airspace beyond visual range so the pilot has the information they need to execute the missions.
“Controlling up to 14 aircraft at one time in a small airspace and keeping them separated and de-conflicted can be quite challenging,” he said.
A good working relationship between the controllers and surveillance operators is crucial to mission success. WGCDR Morris said that both countries have worked hard to understand each other’s procedures.
“There are slight differences in how we operate such as the type of system we use and how we identify aircraft, so we’ve learnt a lot from each other,” WGCDR Morris said.
“Overall, the passion and professionalism of individuals has meant it’s been a very easy process to integrate in the Koku-Jieitai operations room.
“But most of all, it’s the friendships that we make during the missions and at the debriefs that we will take away from here, and that is what truly strengthens the bond between our countries.”