In China’s Backyard, F-15 Air Superiority Fighters, French Rafales Hold 1st Joint Aerial Drills

The Japan Air Self-Defense Force (JASDF) and the French Air and Space Force (FASF) recently completed their first bilateral air force exercise aimed at improving “tactical skills” and fostering closer military ties between the two nations.  

On July 31, the JASDF tweeted a video showcasing highlights of the joint aerial exercise, along with a caption stating, “From July 26 to 28, the JASDF conducted bilateral training with FASF.”

The tweet also highlighted that during the joint air exercise, General Stéphane Mille, Chief of the French Defense Staff (CEMAAE), visited Japan to observe the training activities and hold talks with General Uchikura, Chief of Staff of the JASDF.

On July 26, a contingent of military aircraft from the French Air and Space Force landed in Japan to engage in the aerial exercise, marking another significant step in the ongoing efforts of these two “special partners” to enhance and deepen their defense and security cooperation. 

The video released by the Japanese Air Force captures the moment when the two French Rafales descended at Nyutabaru Air Base in southern Miyazaki prefecture, the home of Japanese F-15J fighters, before being greeted with a customary water cannon salute. 

At the forefront of the French contingent were two Rafale fighters, accompanied by an A330 MRTT refueling aircraft and an A400M tactical transport aircraft providing support.

The footage released by the Japanese Air Force shows the French military fighter aircraft participating in the aerial drill alongside three F-15 and two F-2 multirole fighters and a Kawasaki C-2 of the JASDF. 

The aerial maneuvers took place in the airspace around the Kanto region and the ASDF’s Nyutabaru Air Base in Miyazaki Prefecture.

The joint exercise is a crucial component of the FASF’s Pegase 23 mission, which commenced on June 25 and will continue until August 3. 

Japanese F-15s with French Rafale fighter jets

This deployment involves approximately 20 aircraft from France engaged in joint activities with 14 partner air forces in at least ten countries and territories, including Japan, South Korea, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, New Caledonia, and French Polynesia.

“Japan and France share a common vision on space issues in the face of new threats. To protect our capabilities, it is important to improve our spatial knowledge by strengthening cooperation with our military partners,” General Stéphane Mille, Chief of Staff of the Air and Space Force, said. 

Paris has consistently underscored the significance of the Indo-Pacific region due to its unique geopolitical position, with seven of its 13 overseas departments, regions, and communities located in the Indian Ocean or the South Pacific. 

As the sole European nation to maintain a permanent military presence in the Indo-Pacific, France has over 6,350 soldiers stationed in the area.

Although France has expressed apprehension about China’s increasing assertiveness and the rapid modernization of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army, it clarifies that its regional approach is not directed at any specific country and firmly rejects engaging in “bloc geopolitics” that could exacerbate tensions in the region.

Japan’s Aerial Drills With Allies

Meanwhile, Tokyo has been diligently pursuing a robust and dynamic strategy to expand its network of security partnerships within the region and globally. 

In September 2022, the ASDF successfully conducted its first fighter aircraft drills in collaboration with the German Air Force and subsequently, in January, engaged in similar exercises with the Indian Air Force.

These joint aerial drills have proven fruitful, prompting plans for further similar exercises in the upcoming months.

In continuing its efforts to boost defense cooperation with various countries, the ASDF is gearing up for its first-ever fighter exercise with the Italian Air Force from August 2 to 10. 

The exercise will be conducted in the airspace around Komatsu Air Base in Ishikawa Prefecture, with the ASDF deploying four F-15s and an aerial tanker, while the Italian contingent will consist of four F-35A fifth-generation fighters, three aerial tankers, and an airborne early warning aircraft, among others.

Japanese F-15 fighter jets

Italy’s burgeoning security connections with Japan have been making swift progress, evident in navy port calls and planned information exchanges concerning F-35B aircraft operations, as previously reported by the EurAsian Times.

The forthcoming fighter drills indicate a deepening of bilateral defense relations between the two countries.

In addition to the exercise with the Italian Air Force, the ASDF is also scheduled to participate in an extensive training exercise with the Royal Australian Air Force from August 23 to September 15. 

The exercise’s primary focus will be improving tactical skills and interoperability between the two air forces. This exercise will also take place in the airspace around Komatsu Air Base. 

The ASDF will deploy six F-35As, 16 F-15s, four F-2s, and an aerial tanker, while the Royal Australian Air Force will participate with six F-35As, an aerial tanker, and two separate transport aircraft.