U.S. Marines with Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 121 (VMFA-121), 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, deployed F-35B Lightning IIs to Misawa Air Base to conduct aerial fighter integration training alongside the 14th Fighter Squadron throughout the month of August 2021. The Marines of VMFA-121 are another weapon in the arsenal that the U.S. employs to ensure a free and open Indo-Pacific region. The Marines conduct training throughout Japan in order to sustain their high level of proficiency and operational readiness while increasing interoperability with both the U.S. Air Force, and Japan Air Self-Defense Force (JASDF). VMFA-121 pilots conducted suppression of enemy air defense (SEAD), strike mission, and defensive counter-air training with F-16 Fighting Falcon pilots from the 14th Fighter Squadron.
“What impressed us the most was how faithful the Marines of VMFA-121 are. They are also positive and cheerful at the same time,” said JASDF Lt. Col. Yoshihiko Ida, 301st Tactical Fighter Squadron commander. “Japan Self-Defense Forces do not have a direct counterpart of the Marine Corps. However, through the past three weeks we are convinced that they are also a truly reliable ally.”
“From a joint perspective, sometimes we think the same thing, but say it in different ways,” said U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. David M. Dubel, 14th Fighter Squadron commander. “So being able to brief, fly and debrief with our Marine Corps partners gives us a common understanding of what we’re saying on the radio and what we’re doing tactically so we can integrate better in the future.”
“One reason we came to Misawa was to use Draughon Range and the Joint Threat Emitters that simulate surface-to-air missile threats. Another great reason we came to Misawa was to integrate with the F-16s here, as well as in hopes that we could do something with the Japan Air Self-Defense Force. Another great reason we came to Misawa was to integrate with the F-16s here, as well as in hopes that we could do something with the Japan Air Self-Defense Force. We unfortunately don’t have those emitters available where we’re stationed at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, or really anywhere else in theater. The training we do in the simulator, we’re trying to replicate in the air, using the airplane’s capabilities, to mimic the real-world SEAD mission. It’s great to be able to try and exercise those systems,” said U.S. Marine Corps Lt. Col. Timothy J. Farag, VMFA-121 commanding officer.
The fighter attack squadron needs to be able to operate anywhere if called upon to deter and defeat adversaries. The ability to integrate with partners and allies is a vital part of that capability. This integration training affords all parties involved a greater understanding of how to work together in the event of real-world operations. In addition to integrating with the 14th Fighter Squadron, VMFA-121 was able to hold bilateral F-35 talks between Marine Corps and JASDF pilots and maintainers. The Marines were also able to train with the newly installed Joint Threat Emitters at Draughon Range. Draughon Range is a premiere air-to-ground training site located in northern Japan. U.S. Force and partner nations train at the range to enhance capabilities such as SEAD, munition employment, Combat Search and Rescue and Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape, ultimately enhancing the readiness of joint and multinational forces in the region.