The strength of Japan and Australia’s defence cooperation was evident when the Chief of Air Force, Air Marshal Mel Hupfeld, took to the air in a Japanese F-15J during Exercise Bushido Guardian.

Air Marshal Hupfeld and his counterpart, the Chief of Staff Japan Air Self-Defense Force (Koku-Jieitai), General Yoshinari Marumo, visited exercise participants at Chitose Air Base, Japan, on September 25.

During the ceremony, Air Marshal Hupfeld thanked exercise participants for their contribution to the significant step forward in the two nations’ military relationship.

“Working alongside other air forces allows each of us to gain critical insights and understanding and unlocks more effective interoperability between friends and partners,” Air Marshal Hupfeld said.

“Over the coming days we are not only conducting the first bilateral air combat exercise, we are also demonstrating our shared commitment to an enduring partnership.

“I have no doubt that you are already earning each other’s respect and admiration for your professionalism and skill, and that you will continue to build new friendships that will last throughout your careers.”

The Chief of Staff, Koku-Jieitai, General Yoshinari Marumo, right, speaks with the Chief of Air Force, Air Marshal Mel Hupfeld, centre, and the Commanding Officer of No. 77 Squadron, Wing Commander Jason Easthope took during an exchange flight on Exercise Bushido Guardian. Photo: Corporal Craig Barrett

General Marumo and Air Marshal Hupfeld said the historic exercise was a symbol of Australia and Japan’s special strategic partnership, founded on common strategic interests and shared values.

“We will continue to pursue opportunities to improve bilateral and multilateral air training and exercises, including in new domains,” General Marumo said.

“Australia and Japan are committed to working proactively together to promote and maintain a free, open, stable and prosperous and open Indo-Pacific.

“We will also continue to pursue engagement opportunities that contribute to our two countries’ commitment to our region.”

In a gesture of friendship, Air Marshal Hupfeld and General Marumo took part in exchange flights in both a Koku-Jieitai F-15J and RAAF F/A-18 fighter jet. The jets were piloted by the exercise squadron commanders and gave the chiefs a first-hand insight into the aircraft’s interoperability in the air.

Bushido Guardian, running until October 8, is an important exercise with Australia’s Japanese partners. It provides realistic and challenging training opportunities to guarantee the best quality of air combat support to the militaries during real-world operations.