A warm Northern Territory welcome greeted the Japan Air Self-Defense Force (JASDF) on the first international deployment of its F-35A Lightning IIs.
CAPTION: An F-35A Lightning II from the Japan Air Self-Defense Force 301st Tactical Fighter Squadron during sunset at RAAF Base Tindal. Story by Squadron Leader Eamon Hamilton.
On August 26, a pair of F-35As from Japan’s 301st Tactical Fighter Squadron touched down at RAAF Base Tindal.
The 6400-kilometre journey from Japan involved a planned overnight stop in Guam and multiple air-to-air refuelling from a JASDF KC-767J.
The visit marked the first visit by any international F-35A to Australia, with approximately 60 JASDF personnel hosted at RAAF Base Tindal by fellow F-35A aviators from Air Force’s 75 Squadron.
Both JASDF F-35As returned home three days later, with 75 Squadron concurrently leaving for Exercise Bushido Guardian 23 in Japan.
The historic deployment was the first conducted through the Japan-Australia Reciprocal Access Agreement (RAA), which was enacted on August 13.
Lieutenant Colonel Okamoto Kazuhito, Commander of JASDF’s 301st Tactical Fighter Squadron, flew one of the F-35As to RAAF Base Tindal.
Addressing the gathered Australian and Japanese personnel on base, Lieutenant Colonel Kazuhito said the deployment was a highlight in the history of his squadron.
“2023 is a very special year for us – it is our 50th anniversary year, and we landed our F-35A for the first time on Australian soil,” Lieutenant Colonel Kazuhito said.
“We would like to take a chance to build deeper cooperation and deeper relationships with Australia.”
Greeting Lieutenant Colonel Kazuhito as he disembarked his F-35A was Wing Commander Martin Parker, Commanding Officer of Air Force’s 75 Squadron.
Wing Commander Parker said the long journey to Australia made by his Japanese counterpart was a significant moment for both countries.
“Their arrival at Tindal was momentous – we are writing history together,” Wing Commander Parker said.
“To be able to host them here in Tindal, to show them our home town, to support them for a few days is exciting, and to do that in return in Japan for Bushido Guardian 23 is significant to us as well.
“I think it’s the first step in what’s set to be a really strong and healthy relationship that will go for many years into the future.”
On August 28, Secretary of Defence Greg Moriarty and Chief of Air Force Air Marshal Robert Chipman visited RAAF Base Tindal with Japanese and Australian Government representatives.
They included Senator Malarndirri McCarthy, Assistant Minister for Indigenous Australians; Japan’s Vice Minister of Defense for International Affairs, Serizawa Kiyoshi; and Ambassador for Japan Suzuki Kazuhiro.
Air Marshal Chipman said both nations committed to the establishment of a reciprocal access agreement nine years ago.
“The agreement will facilitate access and cooperation between the Self-Defense Forces of Japan and the Australian Defence Force,” Air Marshal Chipman said.
“It’s a milestone that’s looking to the future to make sure that we can work and train together more easily, and demonstrate our collective resolve to preserve stability in the Indo-Pacific region.”
Air Marshal Chipman said he was proud to see RAAF Base Tindal, including 17 and 75 Squadrons, hosting the first-of-its-kind visit.
“The fact that we’ve brought the Japan Air Self-Defense Force to such a unique and remarkable part of Australia to celebrate that milestone is a wonderful occasion,” Air Marshal Chipman said.
“This visit to Australia will build closer working-level relationships between our respective air forces, and enhance our mutual ability to cooperate in the Indo-Pacific region.
“It’s our pleasure to host the Japan Air Self-Defense Force for this visit, and we look forward to seeing them return for future exercises here in Australia.”