More than 140 Royal Australian Air Force personnel and six F/A-18 Hornet aircraft have returned to Australia after completing the first air combat exercise on Japanese soil.

Australian and Japanese fast jet pilots tested themselves over a month of intensive training as part of Exercise Bushido Guardian at Chitose and Misawa Air Bases in Japan.

The Exercise, from September 11 to October 8, was a first-of-type bilateral jet-fighter exercise involving the RAAF and the Japan Air Self-Defense Force (Koku-Jieitai).

The RAAF deployed six F/A-18A/B Hornet aircraft from No. 77 Squadron in Williamtown and a wide range of personnel from the Air Combat, Air Mobility, Combat Support and Surveillance and Response Groups to focus on interoperability with Japanese counterparts.

The Detachment Commander, Wing Commander Jason Easthope, congratulated participants on its success.

“Commanding the first ever air combat exercise with Japan has been super exciting because it’s first-of-type; it’s really unique and everybody is really hyped up about being here,” Wing Commander Easthope said.

“Exercise Bushido Guardian has been fantastic for building the bilateral relationship because we’re operating here at the same base, working so close to each other.

“We get to look each other in the eyes when we are briefing and discussing tactics and building those procedures that we will use together to enhance our interoperability going forward.

“Being here in Chitose has also been fantastic from a cultural experience perspective.

“Not only are we meeting new people but we are getting to understand the Japanese lifestyle and immerse ourselves in the culture of the local area.”

The training programs on Exercise Bushido Guardian provided personnel challenging learning opportunities that improved the quality of air combat support for real-world operations and enhanced familiarity with their Koku-Jieitai colleagues.

The Commanding Officer of Koku-Jieitai No. 203 Squadron, Lieutenant Colonel Yamashita, shared the Australians’ enthusiasm.

“It was great that the Australian Air Force could come to Chitose and have the opportunity to conduct joint training with the Koku-Jieitai,” Lieutenant Colonel Yamashita said.

“Next time I hope that the Koku-Jieitai will train in Australia and that our opportunities to train together continue to grow.

“Thank you for coming to Japan, we are looking forward to flying with you in the future.”