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U.S., Japanese military aviation experts join forces

Staff Sgt. Justin Bender, 374th Operations Support Group survival, evasion, resistance and escape specialist, participates in a practice rescue operation at Camp Tachikawa, July 26, 2016. The 459 AS and 374 OSS demonstrated search and rescue capabilities to their Japan Self-Defense Force counterparts, showcasing their tactics and procedures used to support Japan in a disaster-response effort. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Elizabeth Baker/Released)

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Justin Bender, a survival, evasion, resistance and escape specialist assigned to the 374th Operations Support Group, participates in a practice rescue operation at Camp Tachikawa, Japan, July 26, 2016. The 459th Airlift Squadron and 374th Operational Support Squadron demonstrated search and rescue capabilities to their Japan Self-Defense Force counterparts, showcasing their tactics and procedures used to support Japan in a disaster-response effort. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Elizabeth Baker/Released)

Members of the Japan Ground Self Defense Force watch the 459thth Airlift Squadron familiarize with a rescue operation at Camp Tachikawa, July 26, 2016. Eastern Army Helicopter invited the 459th Airlift Squadron to attend the 2nd Tachikawa Helicopter Conference as friends and valuable allies. U.S. forces have supported Japan disaster-relief efforts in the past and staying in communication helps ensure we are prepared to do so again.  (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Elizabeth Baker/Released)

Members of the Japan Ground Self Defense Force watch members assigned to the 459th Airlift Squadron (AS) familiarize themselves with a rescue operation at Camp Tachikawa, Japan, July 26, 2016. Eastern Army Helicopter invited the 459th AS to attend the 2nd Tachikawa Helicopter Conference as friends and valuable allies. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Elizabeth Baker/Released)

Members of the Japan Ground Self Defense Force watch the 459thth Airlift Squadron familiarize with a rescue operation at Camp Tachikawa, July 26, 2016. The 459 AS supports the government of Japan and Japan Self-Defense Force during emergency situations. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Elizabeth Baker/Released)

Members of the Japan Ground Self Defense Force watch members with the 459th Airlift Squadron (AS) familiarize themselves with a rescue operation at Camp Tachikawa, Japan, July 26, 2016. The 459th AS supports the government of Japan and Japan Self-Defense Force during emergency situations. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Elizabeth Baker/Released)

Tech. Sgt. David Jacobs, center left, 459th Airlift Squadron UH-1 Iroquois flight engineer, and Senior Master Sgt. Edward Spondenburg, 459 AS superintendent, demonstrate a forest penetrator to members of the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force with translation from Mitsuru Takahashi, 374th Airlift Wing chief of community relations at Camp Tachikawa, July 26, 2016. The 459 AS demonstrated their search and rescue capabilities, which supports Japan in disaster-response efforts.  (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Elizabeth Baker/Released)

U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. David Jacobs, center left, a UH-1 Iroquois flight engineer assigned to the 459th Airlift Squadron (AS) and Senior Master Sgt. Edward Spondenburg, the 459th AS superintendent, demonstrate a forest penetrator to members of the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force with translation from Mitsuru Takahashi, the chief of community relations with the 374th Airlift Wing at Camp Tachikawa, Japan, July 26, 2016. The 459 AS demonstrated their search and rescue capabilities, which supports Japan in disaster-response efforts. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Elizabeth Baker/Released)

A member of the U.S. Army Aviation Battalion searches inside A UH-60 Blackhawk assigned to Camp Zama Army Base at Camp Tachikawa, July 26, 2016. Eastern Army Helicopter invited the U.S. Army Aviation Battalion to participate in the 2nd Tachikawa Helicopter Conference, in which a variety of U.S. and Japanese aviation professionals discussed a new disaster response strategy for helicopters. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Elizabeth Baker/Released)

A U.S. Soldier with the Army Aviation Battalion searches inside A UH-60 Blackhawk assigned to Camp Zama Army Base at Camp Tachikawa, Japan July 26, 2016. Eastern Army Helicopter invited the U.S. Army Aviation Battalion to participate in the 2nd Tachikawa Helicopter Conference, where a variety of U.S. and Japanese aviation professionals discussed a new disaster response strategy for helicopters. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Elizabeth Baker/Released)

Members of the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force explain the radar detection component of the P-20 mobile air traffic control system to members of the U.S Army and Air Force at Camp Tachikawa, July 26, 2016. The P-20, which takes two hours and six personnel to set up, helps guide search and rescue aircraft and is an important part of rapid disaster-response. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Elizabeth Baker/Released)

Members with the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force explain the radar detection component of the P-20 mobile air traffic control system to members of the U.S Army and Air Force at Camp Tachikawa, Japan, July 26, 2016. The P-20, which takes two hours and six personnel to set up, helps guide search and rescue aircraft and is an important part of rapid disaster-response. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Elizabeth Baker/Released)

Members of the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force explain the radar display component of the P-20 mobile air traffic control system to members of the U.S Army and Air Force at Camp Tachikawa, July 26, 2016. Members of the JGSDF invited the U.S. Army Aviation Battalion and the 459th Airlift Squadron to attend the 2nd Tachikawa Helicopter Conference, where participants learned about the P-20, part of a new disaster response strategy for helicopters. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Elizabeth Baker/Released)

Members with the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force (JGSDF) explain the radar display component of the P-20 mobile air traffic control system to members of the U.S Army and Air Force at Camp Tachikawa, Japan, July 26, 2016. Members of the JGSDF invited the U.S. Army Aviation Battalion and the 459th Airlift Squadron to attend the 2nd Tachikawa Helicopter Conference, where participants learned about the P-20, part of a new disaster response strategy for helicopters. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Elizabeth Baker/Released)

Lt. Col. Trenton Alexander, 459th Airlift Squadron director of operations, speaks with members of the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force at Camp Tachikawa, July 26, 2016. Members of the JGSDF invited the 459th Airlift Squadron to attend the 2nd Tachikawa Helicopter Conference as friends and allies. U.S. forces have supported Japan in disaster-relief efforts for more than 70 years.  (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Elizabeth Baker/Released)

U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Trenton Alexander, the director of operations for the 459th Airlift Squadron, speaks with members of the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force (JGSDF) at Camp Tachikawa, Japan, July 26, 2016. Members of the JGSDF invited the 459th Airlift Squadron to attend the 2nd Tachikawa Helicopter Conference as friends and allies. U.S. forces have supported Japan in disaster-relief efforts for more than 70 years. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Elizabeth Baker/Released)

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.