The British Army is back in Japan. Combining the influence of soft power and the expertise of operational training. This month the British Army has been fostering closer ties with an important strategic partner in the East. The British Army has reaffirmed the UK’s ongoing commitment to the Asia-Pacific region and with the resumption of the biennial training exercise Vigilant Isles. British soldiers have been training alongside their Japanese counterparts in a bilateral war game exercise in Gunma prefecture in central Japan. It is a joint exercise on island defence. The exercise saw British Forces leading six reconnaissance teams each comprising personnel alongside the Japanese Ground Self Defence Force as part of wider bilateral defence engagement activity. Japanese people got to see another facet of the British Army. The Band of the Coldstream Guards wowed audiences on their tour of Japanese historical settings and concert halls.
Members of 1 Regiment Royal Horse Artillery boosted by soldiers from 7 Para Royal Horse Artillery, 29 Commando Regiment Royal Artillery and 104 Regiment Royal Artillery were on exercise Vigilant Isles 22 alongside the Japanese Ground Self Defence Force (JGSDF). They were working together to develop the JGSDF’s operational capabilities and to promote mutual understanding and trust. This partnership began in October 2018 when the Honourable Artillery Company (HAC) trained with the Japanese Ground Self Defence Force on the slopes of Mount Fuji for the first Vigilant Isles exercise. Other than the Americans, no foreign troops had ever conducted military exercises on Japanese soil, in what the HAC’s then Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Colonel Mark Wood described as “an incredible privilege”. The Covid epidemic interrupted further collaborative training exercises.