Japan’s F-15 aircraft and India’s Su-30MKI fighters will engage in air combat training for the first time ever.

The Japan Air Self-Defense Forces announced on December 22 that it would hold the first joint fighter jet maneuvers with India in January near Tokyo.

Officials said the exercises, which will take place from January 16 to 26, will be the first in Japan, NHK Japan reported. The Japan Air Self-Defense Force will deploy F-2 and F-15 fighters.

According to the ASDF, the four Su-30MKI fighters and the two C-17 transport planes of the Indian Air Force are scheduled to arrive in Japan on January 10 to participate in the drill.

Hyakuri Air Base in Ibaraki Prefecture and its surroundings will be used as a training area. According to the Japanese authorities, the ” Veer Guardian 23 ” exercise aims to improve mutual understanding and reinforce defense cooperation between the two nations.

After the United States, Australia, the United Kingdom, and Germany, India will be the fifth country to hold a bilateral exercise with Japan.

The Indian Air Force will use its IL-78 aircraft to refuel its fighter planes en route to Japan. There was initial agreement on the cooperative air combat training proposal during the first two-plus-two security meetings between the foreign and defense ministers of both countries in November 2019 in New Delhi.

It had been scheduled for 2019, but the coronavirus epidemic forced organizers to push it out to early 2020. Training with Japanese F-2 aircraft was later scheduled to begin in July 2021 at Hyakuri Air Base. Since the spread of the Delta strain of COVID-19, however, even that event had to be postponed.

Experts believe that Japan has been eagerly awaiting a military exercise involving Indian Air Force (IAF) Su-30MKI fighter jets. This is mostly due to the fact that China’s Air Force, which already possesses Su-30 fighters and other Russian-sourced modified jets, represents an ever-increasing threat to Tokyo’s safety.

The Japan Air Self-Defense Force (JASDF) could learn a lot from a training exercise with Indian Su-30s, as it would provide Japanese fighter pilots with important insights into the fundamental capabilities of the Su-30, such as maneuverability, cruising autonomy, fuel consumption, and maintenance times, etc.

In the event of a conflict with China, this data could prove crucial to Japanese military strategists.

Japan-India Cooperation

The latest announcement comes at a time when both countries have intensified their security cooperation in the face of China’s growing maritime assertiveness in the Indo-Pacific region.

The Quad, a multinational organization that includes the United States, India, Australia, and Japan, was created primarily to counter China’s growing military and economic power in the Indo-Pacific.

Several uninhabited islands in the East China Sea fall under Japanese jurisdiction, which is the source of contention between Japan and China. The Japanese refer to these islets as the Senkaku, while the Chinese refer to them as the Diaoyu.

Beijing frequently sends military planes or ships to the vicinity of these islands. Tokyo is also growing concerned by China’s increased military adventurism in recent months in the waters surrounding Taiwan, which lies just over 100 kilometers from these disputed islands.

China poses the “biggest strategic challenge in history” to Tokyo’s security, according to the Japanese government, which recently approved a substantial reform of its defense plan, including a big increase in funding.

In its biggest defense shakeup in decades, Japan has pledged to increase security spending to 2% of GDP by 2027, reshuffle its military command and buy new missiles that can target far-flung enemy launch points.

At a press conference, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida emphasized the importance of safeguarding the country and its citizens.

He cited the Russian invasion of Ukraine as an illustration of how times have changed, stating that nuclear missile capabilities have been strengthened, armies have been rapidly built and attempts to change the status quo have intensified unilaterally.

Polls show that the majority of Japanese people support the change, but because Japan’s postwar constitution does not formally recognize the military and limits its capabilities to ostensibly self-defense, the reforms may still spark controversy.

China is also acting aggressively on the borders of India. On December 9, troops from India and China fought along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in the Tawang region of Arunachal Pradesh.

This implies that both nations have the same concerns. The Cross Acquisitions and Services Agreement (ACSA), which Japan and India signed in 2020, allows the forces of both countries to exchange services and supplies.

This pact allows the Indian military to use Japanese sites, including the one in Djibouti, close to important shipping lines in the Middle East.

Even the Japanese military can reach some crucial Indian outposts on the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, located in the Bay of Bengal near the Strait of Malacca, the main trade route connecting the Indian and Pacific oceans.

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