F-16s make strides while at Chitose AB
CHITOSE AIR BASE, Japan -- U.S. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcons didn't wait long to roar into high-flying action while traveling here July 8 to train with F-15Js assigned to the Japan Air Self-Defense Force.
Pilots from the 35th Fighter Wing stationed at Misawa Air Base, Japan, "fought" their way into Chitose airspace early in the day while performing simulated combat training with their Japanese hosts. The purpose of the weeklong Aviation Training Relocation is to gain proficiency in air-to-air combat sets while simultaneously strengthening the U.S. Air Force and JASDF relationship through training.
"With the bases being so close together, this ATR provides a great opportunity to make each other better through bilateral training, focusing on air-to-air combat employment," said Capt. Matthew Hoyt, 13th Fighter Squadron F-16 pilot.
1st Lt. Michelle Hamland, also a 13th Fighter Squadron F-16 pilot, explained how the training benefited Misawa pilots.
"It helps us both improve tactically in the air, and secondly, it's a big deal to fight dissimilar aircraft," said Hamland, who fought in both single-jet and team scenarios through the week.
The mission of the F-16s at Misawa is the Suppression of Air Enemy Defenses, known as SEAD, and typically, pilots are either engaged in simulated fighting with one another or a land target. Dissimilar aircraft, such as the Japanese F-15Js in an air-to-air setting, bring a new challenge to the fight.
Capt. Michael Cady, 13 FS, said the training was centered on basic fighting maneuvers, and set up pilots to hone close-range combat skills.
"We set up simulated scenarios where weren't able to destroy the enemy from a distance, which is what we like to do, so we have to use our close-up weapon of choice -- the gun," Cady said. "We have to be able to get our nose in the right direction in order to hit the other airplane. The baseline is maneuvering your jet while looking at the enemy and putting yourself at the position of advantage to be able to destroy them."
The varying tactics between the different forces' jets forced adjustments on both ends.
"We also usually fight the same aircraft, so this ATR provides us the opportunity to change up our regular methods and focuses," said 1st Lt. Akifumi Sakaima, 201st Fighter Squadron F-15J pilot.
1st Lt. Shuntaro Takeuchi, also with the 201 FS, said the tactics of their F-15Js vary from those of the U.S. F-16s, and added that learning different techniques from U.S. pilots was very beneficial to the JASDF.
Hoyt said the training was significant in that both members of the USAF and JASDF alternated leading missions, further enhancing the mutual trust and cooperation to build a better airborne relationship.
"This was my first experience working with the U.S. Air Force, so it was a very important experience for myself and my wingmen," said Takeuchi. "The cooperation is great and we have built a strong relationship with these pilots. Together, we fight united."
"Being able to form these relationships keeps us not only ready to defend Japan together, but to be ready for any potential adversaries that step out of line in all of the pacific region," said Hoyt. "We are thankful to the government of Japan for supporting these ATRs."
On top of gaining invaluable tactical experience in the air, Cady shared the lasting effects of working with Japanese hosts.
"Not only does this allow us to train in our daily jobs as fighter pilots, but it also provides the opportunity to spend time together in face-to-face settings," he said. "That's important because when it all comes down to it, the U.S. and Japan are one team together."