U.S., Japan strengthen strategic alliance through Tsuiki ATR

TSUIKI AIR BASE, Japan -- More than 100 members from various 35th Fighter Wing units forward-deployed alongside six F-16 Fighting Falcons to Tsuiki Air Base, Japan, Oct. 2 to 6 for an aviation training relocation.

The ATR allowed Airmen to practice deployed contingency operations and execute bilateral training exercises in a geographically different environment, side-by-side with the Japan Air Self-Defense Force 8th Air Wing Mitsubishi F-2s.

“Anytime we can train with our JASDF partners is beneficial to our working relationship and the overall U.S.-Japan alliance," said U.S. Air Force Capt. Nicolas De Wulf, the 13th Fighter Squadron readiness flight commander. "I am confident both countries walked away with a better understanding of each other’s tactics and capabilities, along with goals for improvement."

Throughout the duration of the exercise, both teams of pilots conducted 27 sorties, focusing on specialized training consisting of bilateral basic fighting maneuvers, air combat maneuvers, defensive counter air and suppression of enemy air defense.

While basic fighting and air combat tactics hone core concepts of maneuverability and weapon employment as partners, defensive counter air and SEAD reflect pilots skills in real-world combat scenarios.

“The training between our two nations will help interoperability and also help enhance JASDF’s readiness and capabilities,” said JASDF Lt. Col. Ryoji Kando, the 8th Tactical Fighter Squadron commander. “I am most excited about my pilots learning SEAD because it is not something they are familiar with.”

Immediately following long days of flying, U.S. and Japan pilots collaborated during debriefs and discussed challenges that arose before, during and after flights. Additionally, JASDF pilots were given an in-depth academic SEAD brief, giving them insight on the 35th FW’s primary mission set.

“When we simulate strike missions, we are unable to get close to the target because of the danger,” said JASDF Capt. Nobuyuki Ariga, an 8th Tactical Fighter Squadron F-2 pilot. “Learning in person how SEAD can support and protect JASDF pilots during contingency operations was incredible.”

With the challenging environment the Indo-Asia-Pacific region brings, the understanding and alliance between the U.S. and Japan is more crucial than ever.

"Flying with the F-16s improved our ability to fly against different weapons systems and opposing strategies, providing a realistic training environment," said Kondo. “Our strategic alliance is indispensable to security within this region.”

De Wulf continued by expressing many thanks to several units across the Pacific Air Forces’ which made this ATR possible. Each challenge was met with dedicated effort and in some cases, unconventional solutions, which resulted in an absolute success.