Taking off from an aerodrome that is comparable to Sydney airport means smooth integration with local air traffic is essential. 

RAAF F/A-18 Hornets flying their first training missions in busy Japanese airspace were thankful to be supported by a familiar voice in the tower.

For Exercise Bushido Guardian, the RAAF deployed an air traffic control liaison officer from No. 44 Wing to work in the Chitose Air Traffic Control tower alongside Japan Air Self-Defense Force (Koku-Jieitai) personnel.

“I’d say it’s comparable with Australia’s largest airports, so it’s a great learning opportunity.”

Flight Lieutenant Stephanie Gartshore worked hard to ensure safe practices and mutual understanding, acting as a bridge between RAAF jets and the Koku-Jieitai run tower. 

“Chitose has different requirements compared to what our pilots are used to back home. There are different limits for visual flight rule parameters and separation with other aircraft,” Flight Lieutenant Gartshore said.

“The tower here is operated by the military with personnel responsible for both the civilian and military runways. The local airport is extremely busy, which makes for a complex and densely packed airspace. 

“I’d say it’s comparable with Australia’s largest airports, so it’s a great learning opportunity.”

For Koku-Jieitai air traffic controller Captain Hidekazu Kurita, Exercise Bushido Guardian was his first time working with Australians.

“Overall, it’s been a great experience working with the RAAF. Having Flight Lieutenant Gartshore in the tower gives us a chance to learn how each other operates and improve our English pronunciations and vocabulary,” Captain Hidekazu said.

“It’s true that the majority of our systems are the same, but there are some crucial differences.

“I remember on one of the first days of the exercise when we confirmed with the F/A-18 that their landing gear system was down, the F/A-18 responded with a tone. 

“My team was not sure what this meant and Flight Lieutenant Gartshore was swiftly able to explain that this was a standard RAAF operating procedure and that the tone was the Hornet’s way of acknowledging that the gear system was down.”

Exercise Bushido Guardian represents the next significant step forward for bilateral defence cooperation and the Australia-Japan special strategic partnership.