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News > Langley AFB F-22s partner with Kadena F-15s, JASDF
F-22s, JASDF participate in bilateral training
An F-22 Raptor takes off on Kadena Air Base, Japan, April 4, 2014. The 94th Fighter Squadron and the 192nd Fighter Wing participated with the Japan Air Self Defense Force in recurring training recently, strengthening the bilateral partnership with the host nation of Japan. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Hailey R. Staker)
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Langley AFB F-22s partner with Kadena F-15s, JASDF

Posted 4/16/2014   Updated 4/16/2014 Email story   Print story


by Senior Airman Maeson L. Elleman
18th Wing Public Affairs

4/16/2014 - KADENA AIR BASE, Japan -- F-22 Raptors from the 94th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron stationed at Langley Air Force Base, Va., partnered with 44th Fighter Squadron F-15 Eagles and the Japan Air Self-Defense Force out of Naha Air Base April 4.

For the first time since the F-22s arrived on Kadena in January, the three units trained on defensive counter-air and multi-lateral integration operations in order to improve interoperability and bolster readiness.

"I think we've made great strides throughout the course of my career in making sure we can execute jointly and execute with a coalition, and nothing but goodness can come out of it because if we do end up going to war, that's the way we're going to fight," said Lt. Col. Darren Gray, 94th EFS F-22 instructor pilot. "We're always ready, but even more so after deployments like this."

Gray, who's flown with the Air Force for 18 years, said the greatest advantage to working with different air frames, services and nations is the exposure to different tactics, techniques and procedures.

"We've worked with F-18 Hornets, we've worked with Harriers, we've worked with the Eagles and we've worked with the JASDF," Gray said. "We work with a lot of different folks, and it's been great because everybody does things just a little bit differently. Making sure you work out any potential issues and finding that common ground in training makes it easier to execute in the event we have to go to combat."

JASDF Capt. Jun Fukuda, a 10-year F-15 pilot from the 204th Squadron stationed at Naha Air Base, Okinawa, said he enjoys working with the U.S. forces and feels the training benefited the Japanese forces as well.

"The scale and procedures we implemented this time helped us to train and evaluate better, since it was more practical and efficient," Fukuda said. "We cannot conduct similar training by ourselves. Through this training, we deepen mutual understanding of our capabilities, including aircraft capabilities, which help enhance our ability to execute the mission."

Though the training proved fruitful for both the American and Japanese forces, Fukuda said it wasn't met without challenges.

"It was very beneficial training for us, since it is rare to train with F-22s," Fukuda added. "I wish we could continue to have more opportunities to train with them. We identified some challenges such as how we work together to execute the mission in an efficient way, especially with F-22s."

One challenge that presented itself during the training was the ability to effectively communicate.

In an airborne combat mission, communication can quickly become the make-it or break-it for mission success. While the two American squadrons have tacked down integration sorties, Gray said it hasn't been as simple to work with the JASDF because with two very different native languages, it's not hard to imagine why confusion could set in without proper continuity.

"We've been coming here just about every year for the last four or five years, and so integrating with the Eagles ... we've pretty much got that," Gray said. "When you're dealing with partner nations where English is their second language, that's what becomes a challenge.

"Because communication is so important in air-to-air combat where everything is so dynamic, if you say the wrong thing at the wrong time, it could have catastrophic results and can lead to mission failure," he continued. "You need to make sure the contracts you establish are very simple and very executable, especially when you're dealing with the Japanese. They speak good English; it's just that much more difficult. If I tried to fly while speaking Japanese, we'd have no chance at success. My hat's really off to those guys. They executed the contracts and did everything we expected them to do, and they are professional aviators."

In addition to valuable integration training, Gray also said during their time here, the deployment has developed the 12-Raptor squadron in several other areas.
"Being at Kadena has been incredible because we had eight guys going through upgrade training - whether it's flight lead or instructor pilot - and we got every single one of those upgrades done," Gray said. "They were able to experience things that we just can't experience at home. It just makes you that better of a pilot when you're exposed to things that are not the norm. That's what makes us the best Air Force in the world."

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