Tokyo (Agencies): In an unprecedented move, Japanese F-15 and F-2 fighter pilots are set to engage in mega drills, utilizing civilian airports for take-offs and landings as part of the upcoming Self-Defense Forces Joint Exercise.
This significant shift in strategy is designed to simulate scenarios where traditional military bases are rendered inaccessible due to potential enemy attacks, especially considering the rising tensions in the region.
Scheduled to commence on November 10 and extend until November 20, the nationwide military exercise will involve approximately 40,000 members from both the Japan Self-Defense Forces and the US military.
This marks the first instance of incorporating civilian airports into such extensive military drills, highlighting Japan’s proactive approach to addressing potential vulnerabilities in the face of evolving security challenges.
The decision to include this element in the exercise reflects Japan’s acknowledgment that its military bases could be targeted, particularly by Chinese missile strikes, given their strategic significance as potential staging areas for US forces in the event of a conflict. Japan’s defense strategy has increasingly focused on preparing its Air Force to operate from civilian airports as an alternative in the face of such threats.
The upcoming training will feature “touch-and-go” landings of F-15 fighter jets at airports in Kagoshima Prefecture, specifically Tokunoshima and Amami. Additionally, F-2 fighters will conduct landings at airports in Okayama and Oita, followed by refueling and takeoff.
This departure from standard procedures underscores Japan’s commitment to exploring alternative deployment methods when conventional military bases become inaccessible.
Keishu Yoshida, Chief of Staff of the Joint Staff of the Self-Defense Forces, emphasized the significance of this training during a recent press conference. He underscored the necessity of developing alternative deployment methods to enhance flexibility and adaptability in the face of evolving security challenges.
The exercise will also utilize ten civilian ports and vessels across Japan, from Hokkaido to Okinawa, for maritime transportation of units and equipment. Additionally, Tokunoshima will host diverse exercises related to island defense, including parachute drops of Ground Self-Defense Force units from US military aircraft and strategies to counter potential enemy landings.