On April 28, 1952, the San Francisco Peace Treaty went into effect, signifying the beginning of the United States-Japan alliance. Since then, the U.S. and Japan have worked to strengthen their allied relationship through combined international training and operations. Known locally as “Mobility’s Hometown,” over 2,000 air mobility students train here annually, to include students from 16 different foreign nations. Training conducted at Altus ensures global air superiority for the nation and its allies. Recently, the Japan Air Self-Defense Force became part of the Mobility’s Hometown community as 12 aircrew students began training on the KC-46 Pegasus, further building joint readiness between allies.
Over the course of three months, the JASDF students went through the same training that U.S. Airmen go through to be fully qualified to operate the Boeing KC-46 Pegasus. The curriculum started with an academic phase where the students attended up to four classes daily. During the second phase, they focused on simulators and performed pre-briefs and debriefs. During the third phase, the students completed eight flights and a check ride with one of the 56th Air Refueling Squadron instructors to finalize their training. The instructors taught six JASDF pilots and six JASDF boom operators here, who will return to their home unit in Japan, the 405th Air Refueling Squadron – an opportunity Kamiguchi said he and his squadron members were honored by.
JASDF Chief Master Sgt. Teruyuki Mizokami, 405th Air Refueling Squadron senior boom-operator, also expressed gratitude and excitement to take his new found knowledge back to the 405th. U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Amy James, 56th ARS instructor boom operator, said she learned a lot from the students during their time here. She also stated the importance of sharing knowledge with allied nations. According to Kamiguchi, the training definitely strengthened the alliance between the U.S. and Japan and is a gift to have for future relationships. Kamiguchi also said he really appreciates everyone on base for making himself and the other students feel welcomed and supported. Maj. Jonathan Benson, 56th ARS training flight commander, agreed with Kamiguchi’s sentiment, and said working with the students was a rewarding opportunity.
The JASDF operates four of the earlier Boeing KC-767 tankers that were delivered from 2008 to 2010. On 23 October 2015, Japan selected the KC-46, with a contract for three tankers expected in 2016. The decision allows for common operations and training with the USAF, and Japan was reportedly attracted to its capability to refuel MV-22 Osprey tiltrotors the JASDF is to receive. The three tankers are to be fielded around 2020 at a cost of more than ¥20.8 billion, about US$173 million per aircraft. The JASDF reportedly sought to acquire a total of six KC-46s. Work on the first JASDF KC-46 began on 17 September 2019. An order for a third and fourth KC-46 was placed on 30 October 2020. On 8 February 2021, the JASDF conducted its first flight of a KC-46 tanker.