Eagles migrate north for bilateral training

MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan -- Some birds migrate north for the summer, and over the last week this was the case for a unique flock of eagles welcomed onto Misawa Air Base for a training exercise with the 35th Fighter Wing and the Japan Air Self-Defense Force.


These birds, or F-15C Eagles, assigned to Kadena Air Base, Japan, joined F-16 Fighting Falcons and JASDF F-2s in blue skies to enhance interoperability between airframes and nations while also strengthening partnerships during a routine aviation training relocation.


“We do not fly with the eagles on a regular basis,” said Capt. Ben Walters, a 13th Fighter Squadron F-16 Fighting Falcon pilot. “This training is critical because you don’t want the first time integrating with an asset that is supposed to provide coverage to be on the first day of a war. It has to be during training.”


Due to its strategic location in Northern Japan, Misawa AB is a hub for contingency operations for airframes and units forward deployed across the Indo-Asia-Pacific region. It is important during training such as these to test the abilities of the pilots and maintainers who work cohesively alongside the aircraft.


“Training here in Misawa is important because it forces us to be in a different environment and overcome different adversaries we wouldn’t normally have at home station,” said Senior Airman Hugh Palmer, an 18th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron dedicated crew chief. “Working here also highlights our downfalls during a relocation and gives us the opportunity to work with our Japanese counterparts and allies to ensure we are proficient if we ever have to operate out of Misawa.”


In addition to operating alongside U.S. assets, both fleets worked with JASDF, or Koku-Jieitai, closely to empower bilateral partnerships and clearly understand their mission sets.


“We have to train with the Koku-Jieitai and be familiar with the way they do business so we can effectively integrate the way we are supposed to if anything were to kick off here,” said Walters.


Overall, pilots from all three units worked together to solidify air-to-air coverage, offensive counter air, suppression of enemy air defenses and escort procedures.


“As pilots, training like this just makes us better,” Walters concluded. “As professionals, it enhances our ability to integrate bilaterally with the JASDF, as well as with different weapon systems. We will exponentially grow more as pilots and as people the more times we conduct exercises like these.”