The Chief of Air Force, Air Marshal  Mel Hupfeld, has greeted participants of Exercise Bushido Guardian 2019 with a confident “konnichiwa” during a hangar ceremony in Chitose, Japan.

The exercise, involving members of the Japan Air Self-Defense Force (or Kōkū Jieita) and the Royal Australian Air Force, is being conducted at Chitose Air Base in Hokkaido and Misawa Air Base in Honshu from September 11 to October 8.

During the ceremony, Air Marshal Hupfeld said it was a pleasure to witness the strength of friendship between Australia and Japan and the growing bonds between the two air forces.

“We are here today because of a mutual desire to pursue broader and deeper defence ties, with BG19 achieving that and more,” Air Marshal Hupfeld said.

“Together, we are not only conducting our first bilateral air combat exercise, we also taking a significant step forward in our military relationship and our airmen and airwomen are forging strong personal bonds.”

Members of the Japan Air Self-Defense Force provide a warm welcome as Australian F/A-18 Hornets arrive at Chitose Air Base, Japan, for Exercise Bushido Guardian.

Air Marshal Hupfeld was confident the new friendships would continue throughout their careers.

“I have no doubt you’ll earn each other’s respect and admiration for your professionalism and skill,” he said.

“Working alongside other air forces allows each of us to gain critical insights and understanding, and unlocks more effective interoperability between friends and allies.

“The realistic and challenging training scenarios will greatly enhance our individual and joint preparedness for operations in support of our national and regional interests.”

Air Marshal Hupfeld thanked everyone for their dedication and hard work and said he looked forward to joining them in the air for an exchange flight in a Kōkū Jieita F-15J.

Royal Australian Air Force Japanese linguist Corporal Yuki Masaoka discusses the unloading procedures of the C-17A Globemaster with 1st Lieutenant Tsugiaki Nagatomo from the Japan Air Self-Defense Force on the hardstand of Chitose Air Base, Japan.

The Australian and Japanese governments agreed to pursue deeper and broader defence exercise cooperation in 2017.

Postponed due to the Hokkaido earthquake in last September, BG19 is a first-of-its-kind bilateral fighter deployment to Japan.

The RAAF has deployed 140 people, along with six F/A-18A/B Hornets and an air battle management team, supported by the Air Mobility Group and the Combat Support Group elements and linguists.

Japan will have two F-15J squadrons and one F-2A squadron participating in the exercise.