BY ALASTAIR WANKLYN, JAPAN TIMES, TOKYO (TNS)
The Air Self-Defense Force will conduct its first Japan-based exercise with a foreign nation other than the US this month when Britain sends four fighter jets to Misawa Air Base in Aomori Prefecture. The aircraft will arrive on Oct. 21, with joint drills scheduled from Oct. 24 through Nov. 6.
The Eurofighter Typhoons will be accompanied by British tankers and C-17 transport aircraft. They will take part in maneuvers with ASDF F-2 and F-15 fighter jets.
The Japanese Defense Ministry said Friday that Exercise Guardian North 16 will involve air defense, dogfight and ground-attack training.
With around 200 British personnel taking part, the exercise will sharpen the skills of pilots and hone the abilities of UK and Japanese commanders to work together, the ministry said.
The UK unit will later fly on to South Korea to take part in trilateral drills with US and South Korean pilots.
The deployments are likely to draw Chinese attention, as they represent a tightening of the security relationships between London and both Seoul and Tokyo.
On Sunday, a Royal Air Force spokesman in London said the drills are not aimed at any third-party nation.
“The exercise being held between (South Korea), UK and US is not designed to train for any specific operations or offer any message to any other nation in the region, but rather, is purely an exercise designed for international engagement to reinforce our relationships with partners, interoperability training and sharing of knowledge and best practice,” the spokesman said.
British newspapers have quoted commanders as saying the deployment of the Typhoon, which entered service with the UK military in 2003, is the most ambitious to date, given the distance involved.
The drills in Japan were agreed to during a meeting of defense and foreign ministers in January.
“The UK and Japan share common values such as democracy and the rule of law, the British Embassy in Tokyo said in a statement on Sept. 16. “Guardian North 16 represents the deepening partnership in security and defense.”
It is also a reminder that Japan’s security ties stretch farther than the US alliance, which critics take aim at for its overbearing size. There are roughly 104,000 U.S. troops, dependents and US Department of Defense civilian workers stationed in the country.
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