For the first time since World War II, British fighter pilots will face off against their Japanese counterparts. The two air forces will participate in joint practice at Misawa Air Base in northern Japan. It’s the first time the Japanese air force has trained at home with someone besides the United States.
Four Royal Air Force Typhoon Eurofighters landed at the base along with a C-17 support plane. They will fly against Japanese F-15s and their homegrown Mitsubishi F-2s. The practice has been named Guardian North 16.
RAF Lieutenant Colonel Roger Elliot said that he expects the two sides to learn from each other and to form friendships that will bind them together more closely in the future.
The two air forces are looking to improve their scramble techniques to counter perceived threats from Russia and China. Both countries regularly scramble fighters when Russian planes get too close to their border. China’s recent attempts to gain control of the South China Sea has put Japan on alert as they worry about Beijing turning its focus to the East China Sea and a chain of islands controlled by Japan.
In the six months ending in September, Japanese fighters chased Chinese planes 407 times compared to 231 in the same time span last year. Japanese incidents with Russian planes is up 67% to 180 incidents this year.
Japan also gets the opportunity to see the most advanced jet in Europe as it is seeking proposals for a new fighter to replace the F-2s it is currently using. The cost of the project is expected to be as much as $40 billion.
In 2011, Japan actually had a bid from BAE Systems under consideration. BAE was proposing to sell the Typhoon to Japan. The contract was given to Lockheed Martin Corp for its F-35 stealth fighter, Newsweek reported.
Japan is still deciding exactly what their new fighter will be. The options are for a cheap, non-stealth fighter like the Typhoon or a more expensive stealth fighter like the US F-22 Raptor.