KADENA AIR BASE, Japan: U.S. and Japanese military aircraft joined to practice defending Okinawa from simulated enemies during joint bilateral training here Feb. 22 through 26. The training involved a variety of aircraft flying simulated hostile scenarios aimed at training personnel for joint planning and execution of missions.
The 67th and 44th Fighter Squadrons from Kadena Air Base, the 13th Fighter Squadron from Misawa AB, Japan; F-15 Strike Eagles from the 391st Fighter Squadron at Mountain Home AFB, Idaho and F-16 Strike Eagles from the 80th Fighter Squadron at Kunsan AB, Republic of Korea, joined forces with the Japanese Air Self Defense Force’s 201st and 204th Fighter Squadrons for the first time, to make up the “blue air ” whose goal was to prevent the aggressor, or “red air,” from entering Okinawa’s airspace.”
The aggressor team consisted of F-16s from Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska; a combination of aircraft from Kadena AB, Navy VAQ-136 Prowlers from Atsugi, Japan and C-130s from the 36th Airlift Squadron, Yokota AB, Japan.
“We combined all our assets, alongside with JASDF, with the common goal of practicing the defense of Okinawa,” said Maj. Andrew Avery, an F-15 pilot from the 18th Operations Support Squadron and blue team member. “Hopefully we can unify our efforts into a more formidable force against the aggressors.”
The unique training opportunity allowed all sides to learn new tactics, techniques and procedures with the goal of enhancing the common defense of Okinawa.
“We’re learning a lot of new things about tactics,” Major Avery said. “And effectively finding ways of developing ourselves a little bit differently than what we’re normally trained to.”
The primary purpose of the aggressors was to train and validate tactics using the latest technology and weapon systems.
“We have gained a significant amount of experience by training alongside other Air Force, sister service, and JASDF units all focused on one common objective; the defense of Japan,” said Col. Ronald Banks, the 18th Operations Group commander. “This has not happened before to this scale in a simulated air war. Likewise, other units have come to Okinawa to gain the same experience while fighting at Okinawa.”
Colonel Banks added that the joint bilateral training allowed the U.S. and JASDF to improve their interoperability by flying side-by-side.
“The JASDF realized the benefit of this training and have asked us to continue that type of training, which only further strengthens our alliance and friendship,” he said.