Australia, Japan Train Together at Bushido Guardian
Australia and Japan are participating in the first Exercise Bushido Guardian at Chitose Air Base in Hokkaido, Japan, in response to the People’s Republic of China’s (PRC’s) growing military expansion into the South China Sea.
The exercise, which began September 11, 2019, and ends October 8, involves air combat exercises between the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) and the Japanese Air Self-Defence Force (JADF). Australia sent seven of the pictured RAAF F/A-18 Classic Hornet fighter jets, a KC-30A multirole tanker transport plane, a C-130J Hercules and a C-17A Globemaster to Bushido Guardian, according to The Australian newspaper.
The Japanese Ministry of Defense said that the JADF will have up to 10 Mitsubishi F-15J all-weather air superiority fighters and three F-2 multirole fighter jets participating in the exercise, according to the online magazine The Diplomat.
“This is the first exercise of this nature between our two countries which aims to increase our practical engagement with Japan — a key partner that shares Australia’s commitment to regional peace and security,” Australian Minister of Defense Linda Reynolds said, according to The Diplomat. “Importantly, the exercise will offer all personnel involved the opportunity to build and maintain relationships — a vital contributor to the strength of the Australia-Japan Special Strategic Partnership.”
The exercise was delayed a year because of a magnitude 6.7 earthquake in Hokkaido. The quake killed dozens and injured more than 600 others.
Exercise Bushido Guardian is important because the PRC has spent recent years building islands in the South China Sea and deploying airstrips, sensors, and anti-ship and surface-to-air missile capabilities on the islands.
China’s aggressive action has raised concerns regionally and globally about international access through the South China Sea, which is home to some of the world’s busiest shipping routes.
More than a third of all global shipping passes through the South China Sea, experts estimate. Because of its location, its importance to Australia, Cambodia, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam cannot be overstated.
Three crucial straits are accessed through the South China Sea — the Lombok, Malacca and Sunda straits — and the Malacca Strait is considered the gateway between the Indian and Pacific oceans.
Air Vice-Marshal Joe Iervasi, air commander Australia, said that the exercise offers important training benefits and is a chance to enhance shared military cooperation.
“Exercise Bushido Guardian 2019 will offer opportunities for Australia and Japan to not only test and evaluate existing interoperability, but also to increase mutual awareness on force generation requirements, including long range deployment and sustainment practices,” he said.