Australian and Japanese aviators forged strong partnerships and lifelong lessons during the two-week Exercise Bushido Guardian in Japan.
CAPTION: Royal Australian Air Force F-35A Lightning II aircraft fly with Japan Air Self-Defense Force F-15J Eagle aircraft during Exercise Bushido Guardian 2023. Story by Flight Lieutenant Claire Campbell. Photos by Leading Aircraftman Samuel Miller.
Flying and working together from Komatsu Air Base, 75 Squadron and their Koku Jieitai (KJ) counterparts shared valuable skills and knowledge that will pave the way for future bilateral activities.
Flight Lieutenant Mitchell Delaney, a fighter combat instructor from 75 Squadron, spent the exercise conducting tactical mission planning with Japanese fighter pilots as well as leading combined formations.
“When you operate from home base, you can focus a lot on the tactics, but coming to an unfamiliar aerodrome, unknown local procedures, it really tests your fundamental skills and exercises things you haven’t necessarily worked on before,” Flight Lieutenant Delaney said.
“It gives us the confidence that we can take these jets anywhere we need to.”
Exercise Bushido Guardian involved the integration of Australian and Japanese aviators at every level, with the RAAF F-35A Lightning II flying alongside the KJ F-35A, F-15J Eagle and Mitsubishi F-2.
These fourth- and fifth-generation platforms progressed from basic fighter manoeuvres to large-force employment missions, with each country sharing important skills and knowledge with the other.
“I thought that the language barrier would be a major lesson, but interestingly in the air, pilot speak is pilot speak and it has been seamless,” Flight Lieutenant Delaney said.
“I think a lot of the lessons are an increase in confidence that we can all just get airborne and work together effectively.”
The sentiment was echoed by KJ aviators including F-15J pilot Captain Ryosuke Nakata, from the 306th Tactical Fighter Squadron, who said the exercise broadened his understanding of Australia and the RAAF.
CAPTION: Japan Air Self-Defense Force personnel conduct pre-flight checks on a F-15J Eagle aircraft before departure from Komatsu Air Base during Exercise Bushido Guardian 2023.
“During Exercise Bushido Guardian I flew aircraft tactics four versus four as blue force,” Captain Nakata said.
“We usually train in our squadron for combat manoeuvres domestically. However, this time through training with the RAAF, we could see how our combat skills compared to other countries.”
The partnership between Australia and Japan was made stronger during the exercise through a sister squadron signing ceremony between 75 Squadron and the KJ 301st Tactical Fighter Squadron, who also fly the F-35A.
CAPTION: Royal Australian Air Force 75 Squadron and Japan Air Self-Defense Force 301st Tactical Fighter Squadron, stand together in front of two F-35A Lightning II aircraft at JASDF Komatsu Air Base during Exercise Bushido Guardian 2023.
75 Squadron Magpies will be able to build on this bond as well as the skills required to operate from a Japanese air base in further training activities.
“The coolest thing about Exercise Bushido Guardian was flying in the same formation as two Japanese F-35s, and just realising that it’s all the same,” Flight Lieutenant Delaney remarked.
“Once you get in the air, it doesn’t matter which nation is which, F-35As fly very well with other F-35As.”
CAPTION: Royal Australian Air Force and Japan Air Self-Defense Force personnel stand together on Komatsu Air Base’s flight line during Exercise Bushido Guardian 2023.