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RAAF F-35s train in Japan for first time

written by Robyn Tongol | September 8, 2023

A RAAF F-35A takes off from Komatsu Air Base during Exercise Bushido Guardian 2023. (Defence, LAC Samuel Miller)

RAAF F-35s have been deployed to Japan for the first time in a bid to improve interoperability between the two countries’ air forces.

In total, six of the aircraft types will take part in Exercise Bushido Guardian 23 at Komatsu Air Base, halfway between Kanazawa and Fukui City, until 15 September.

Air Marshall Rob Chipman explained that joint interoperability on the platform was essential to maintaining collective security in the Indo-Pacific.

The Australian F-35As are also expected to train alongside Japanese fourth-generation air capabilities during the deployment.

The announcement follows the Australia-Japan Reciprocal Access Agreement entering into force in August, which Defence has outlined will deepen collaboration between the two nations.


“Exercise Bushido Guardian 23 will enhance our interoperability with the JASDF, on the ground and in the air,” AIRMSHL Chipman said.

“Developing a mutual understanding in how we each operate the F-35A is essential to how Australia and Japan contribute to the collective security of the Indo-Pacific.

“Our aviators will develop their skills deploying overseas, 5,800 kilometres from home, and forge professional relationships with their Japanese counterparts.”

The exercise is expected to build on recent training between the nations’ air forces, AIRMSHL Chipman added.

“Exercise Bushido Guardian 2023 follows a visit by JASDF F-35As to RAAF Base Tindal, which is the first time Japan’s F-35As have embarked on an international visit.

“Collaborating in bilateral exercises across the Indo-Pacific provides both nations valuable experiences in overcoming the challenges of distance in our shared region.”

The F-35 is Australia’s newest fighter, purchased to replace the RAAF’s Classic Hornets that were in service since 1985 and retired in late 2021.

Over the coming years, Australia will buy 72 as part of the $17 billion AIR 6000 Phase 2A/B program, with all expected to be fully operational by the end of this year.

The aircraft comes in three variants: the F-35A — purchased by Australia — is a conventional take-off and landing (CTOL) version; the F-35B is a short take-off/vertical landing (STOVL) variant, and the final F-35C is the carrier type (CV). At the time of writing, 59 have landed on Australian soil.

It comes after Australian Aviation reported in August how Newcastle Airport is set to become the regional hub for maintaining F-35As as the federal government greenlights an aircraft coating facility on the East Coast.

Australia’s first dedicated coating facility, specialising in applying stealth paint to the aircraft, will be built in partnership with BAE Systems Australia and responsible for the maintenance, repair, overhaul, and upgrade activities for Australia’s fleet of 72 F-35A aircraft.

It is expected the design of the coating facility will be finalised by the end of this year, with construction expected to start around mid-2024 at a total expected cost of more than $100 million.

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