JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska —
Japanese and American forces have once again joined their training operations during Red Flag-Alaska at JBER.
"This is my first time in Alaska," said Japanese Air Self Defense Force Col. Kiyoka Tomita, Red Flag detachment commander and native of Aichi, Japan. "I have visited America several times to attend meetings and conferences and to support other JASDF training exercises. It is the first time in Red Flag for me."
Tomita said his unit is enjoying not only Alaska, but the base itself enables them to better perform their mission.
"First of all, I think it is wonderful for JASDF to stay at this air base which is surrounded by attractive scenery," he said. "We can see beautiful mountains and ocean. Thanks to well-conditioned, dining and other welfare facilities, we can focus on the exercise. That is the biggest advantage to us."
He also sees a lot of operational advantage in the size of American facilities and the laws governing flight operations.
"I suspect the facilities in Japan are a bit narrower than they are here on the American base," he said. "There are a lot of legal and fiscal limitations on usage and operation of air bases, so air bases and airfields tend to be narrow. There are fewer limitations here. We can exercise a lot of fighters and (airborne early warning and control system) here. As I expected, facilities here are bigger than those in Japan."
Tomita said Red Flag-Alaska is an excellent exercise to improve aerial tactics.
"This is a good opportunity to promote bilateral relationships," the Japanese commander said. "RF-Alaska is one of the most excellent exercises to improve aerial tactics.
"I believe that RF-Alaska could be a very important opportunity to promote bilateral relationships. Our roles during it are airlifts, air refuels, airborne early warning and control systems and more."
Tomita said his unit came prepared.
"We came here with three C-130 Hercules, two KC-767's tankers and one E-767," he said. "I brought maintenance crews, too. Although we have borrowed some maintenance equipment from USAF, we maintain our aircraft ourselves. In addition to maintenance crews, we have brought personnel for intelligence, transportation, accounting, medical and so on. We coordinate with many people and functions. Our units are organized very similar to Air Force units."
Tomita said he sees Red Flag-Alaska as important to the Pacific theater.
"I think that in the Pacific region, especially the situation of East Asia, is so unpredictable," he said. "Therefore, it is significant to continue to deepen our bilateral partnership. In this sense, RF-A is surely a good opportunity to achieve that purpose."
The JASDF have a history participating in Red Flag-Alaska operations. Their C-130H has attended the exercise since 1996, and AEWCS unit since 2003, and KC-767 since 1010.
According to JASDF fact sheets, the Japanese C-130 offers a maximum speed of 600 kilometers an hour with a payload of 19,400 pounds. The Japanese AEWCS E-767 can fly at about 832 kilometers an hour and a range of 9,000 kilometers with a crew of 20 members. Their KC-767 cruises at about 850 kilometers and hour with a 7,200 kilometer range with 30 tons of cargo.
"I fly a C-1," Tomita said. "It is a Japanese-manufactured aircraft."
The Japanese commander said he wants to take his operations a step further.
"In the future, I think it will be great if we could serve as a mission commander during an airlift in order to expand our functions," he said.