YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan --
Eastern Army Helicopter recently invited members of the 459th Airlift Squadron (AS) to attend the 2nd Tachikawa Helicopter Conference July 26, 2016 at Camp Tachikawa, Japan.
The conference gathered approximately 50 representatives from a variety of U.S. and Japanese military aviation professionals, including the U.S. Army Aviation Battalion and members of Japan Ground Self-Defense Force (JGSDF), the Japan Marine Self-Defense Forces (JMSDF) and the Japan Air Self-Defense Forces (JASDF). There were also Japanese civilian police and fire departments and helicopter manufacturers.
“We worked on aligning our tactics, techniques and procedures for large-area natural disasters,” said Lt. Col. Trenton Alexander, 459 AS director of operations. “It enhanced our connection with our civil and military host partners. That is building a bridge towards better interoperability.”
The conference began a dialogue to establish new disaster-response procedures for helicopters. U.S. forces have supported Japan in disaster-relief efforts for more than 70 years, including operations Tomodachi and Damayan. Eastern Army Helicopter invited the 459 AS to attend as friends and allies.
Disaster response often relies heavily on helicopter support for the ability to perform search and rescue and to land in places less accessible to fixed-wing aircraft. During response to the most recent Nankai-trough Earthquake, many aircraft from different organizations acted independently and without coordination. Conference attendees hope to vastly improve coordination and communication between all airborne disaster-relief personnel involved.
At the heart of the coordination measures discussed is the JASDF Central Direction Center (CDC). Presenters discussed how, in the event of a disaster, the CDC is basically a hub for gathering weather and flight information from affected areas and disseminating it appropriately. For example, aircraft performing search and rescue outside their normal flight paths would relay their location to the CDC, which would direct the aircraft to the proper air traffic control tower.
During the conference, participants had the opportunity to view and learn about a JASDF P-20, a rapidly deployable weather and aircraft control system. The P-20 assists with coordinating aircraft during a disaster.
The P-20 functions as a portable air traffic control tower and consists of three air-deployable boxes that can be transported via truck. One box is mounted with a dish and performs radar detection, one contains a radar display and control station and one is a hub for communicating with aircraft. The P-20 takes two hours and six personnel to set up, making it efficient where rapid response is critical.
After the conference, the 36 AS presented and explained the forest penetrator, which is used during rescue operations to penetrate forest canopy and for retrieving rescuers and victims. The 36 AS also conducted a rescue operations familiarization with a UH-1N Iroquois helicopter.
“It was an opportune and beneficial learning environment for both Japanese and U.S. civil and military forces,” Alexander said.