India and Japan agreed to hold the first fighter jet drills between the Air Forces of the two countries soon. The decision was taken during the second India-Japan ‘2+2’ Foreign and Defense Ministerial Meeting hosted by Japan.
The Indian Minister of Defense, Rajnath Singh, and the country’s External Affairs Minister, Dr. S Jaishankar, met with the Minister of Defense of Japan, Hamada Yasukazu, and Minister for Foreign Affairs of Japan, Hayashi Yoshimasa, in Tokyo on September 8, 2022.
In a joint statement following the ‘2+2’ meeting, the ministers from both countries noted that the air services of the two countries are working closely for the early conduct of the inaugural India-Japan fighter exercise.
Furthermore, the ministers expressed the shared intention of both countries to make continuous efforts toward more complex and sophisticated bilateral exercises.
The ministers agreed to “launch the Joint Service Staff Talks between the Japan Joint Staff and the Indian Integrated Defense Staff.”
Japan Keen To Train With Indian Su-30s
The decision to hold joint fighter jet drills was taken in 2019, during the first ‘2+2’ meeting between India and Japan. It was postponed due to the COVID pandemic.
The Indian Su-30s were supposed to train with the Japanese F-15s at Komatsu Airbase in June 2020, but that event had to be postponed because of the first wave of coronavirus infections.
It was later decided to undertake an exercise at Hyakuri Airbase in July 2021 with Japan’s F-2 fighters. Even that event was canceled due to the Delta variant wave of COVID-19.
Meanwhile, Japan has been anxiously waiting to engage in a military exercise with the Indian Air Force’s (IAF’s) Su-30MKI fighter jets due to the growing threat to its security from China, whose Air Force also operates the Su-30 fighters and a variety of other Russian-origin, re-engineered jets.
A training exercise with the Indian Su-30s could be a significant experience for the Japan Air Self-Defense Force (JASDF), as it would provide the Japanese fighter pilots with valuable insights into the Su-30’s basic capabilities such as maneuverability, cruising range, fuel consumption, as well as the turnaround times for maintenance.
Such information could prove to be priceless for Japanese military planners in the event of a potential conflict with China.
Indian Su-30s Vs. Japanese F-15s
The Indian Su-30MKIs are multi-role fighter jets with a maximum speed of Mach 1.9 – nearly two times the speed of sound – with a range of 3,000 kilometers and are armed with a 30mm Gsh-30-1 cannon with 150 rounds of ammunition.
The fighter jets have a weapons payload capacity of 8 tons which can be carried across 12 hardpoints. A Su-30MKI can fire various air-to-surface missiles, including the Kh-29L/T/TYe, Kh-31A/P, Kh-59M, and Nirbhay.
Besides that, the Indian Su-30s are equipped with an air-launched version of BrahMos supersonic cruise missiles.
Also, the aircraft can carry Vympel-made R-27R, R-73, and R-77 air-to-air missiles in addition to rocket pods, KAB-500, and KAB-1500 laser-guided bombs.
Most importantly, the Indian aircraft have advanced Israeli and French avionics and electronic warfare systems, distinguishing them from the standard Su-30s.
Japan will likely field its F-15J or maybe even the upgraded JSI (Japanese Super Interceptor) fighter jets for the drills. The F-15 fighter jet has a maximum air speed of 2.5 Mach and is equipped with a 20mm class machine gun.
The aircraft has ten hardpoints and can carry air-to-air missiles, including the US-made AIM-9 Sidewinder and AIM-7 Sparrow and the Japanese-made AAM-3. The upgraded F-15JSI may also carry the advanced AAM-4.
Apart from that, the upgraded F-15s will also feature a new electronic warfare system and avionics, which include the Eagle Passive Active Warning Survivability System (EPAWSS), the Raytheon APG-82 (v)1 Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar, and Boeing’s Advanced Display Core Processor II (ADCP II), described the company as “the world’s most advanced mission computer.”
The Indian Su-30s, due to their three-dimensional thrust vectoring capability, are uniquely suited to help prepare the Japanese fighter pilots for within-visual-range air combat scenarios which demand rapid maneuvers.
Japan & India Concerned
Japan, like India and many other countries, has a territorial dispute with China over a group of Japan-administered uninhabited islands in the East China Sea, known as the Senkaku Islands in Japan and the Diaoyu Islands in China.
Beijing regularly sends its military aircraft or naval vessels near these islands.
Also, Tokyo is becoming increasingly wary of heightened Chinese military adventurism in recent days in waters surrounding Taiwan, which is just over 100 kilometers from these disputed islands.
In April, the Japanese Defense Ministry confirmed that the JASDF flew 1,004 sorties to intercept approaching Chinese and Russian combat aircraft in the 12 months ending in March, up 279 flights from the previous year.
This was also the second-highest number of scrambles by the JASDF after a record of 1,168 sorties in 2016.
The Japanese Foreign Minister Yoshimasa reportedly said at the ‘2+2’ meeting that “unilateral attempts to change the status quo with force are continuing in the East and South China Seas, let alone Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.”
At the same time, Japan also shares India’s concerns over China’s increasing inroads in the Indian Ocean Region, despite the differences between the two countries relating to Russia, following the invasion of Ukraine in February.
In 2020, Japan and India signed the Acquisition and Cross Servicing Agreement (ACSA) which allows the militaries of both countries to share services and supplies.
This agreement allows the Indian military to access Japanese bases such as Japan’s Djibouti base near major Middle East sea lanes.
At the same time, even the Japanese armed forces could access some key Indian bases in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands in the Bay of Bengal, near the Malacca Strait, the main shipping channel between the Indian and Pacific oceans.