The Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) has deployed six F-35A Lightning II aircrafts to Japan for the first time as part of Exercise Bushido Guardian 23. The exercise will take place at Komatsu Air Base until 15 September, and will include bilateral air combat training between RAAF and Japan Air Self-Defense Force (JASDF). RAAF F-35As will conduct training alongside fourth and fifth-generation JASDF air capabilities, including Japan’s F-35As. The first Exercise Bushido Guardian was held in Japan in 2019, and this year’s exercise builds on the success of recent cooperation at exercises Pitch Black and Cope North. In August 2023, the Australia-Japan Reciprocal Access Agreement entered into force, providing opportunities for more sophisticated cooperation between both nations.
Air Marshal Rob Chipman, Chief of Air Force said,“The exercise demonstrated strength within Australia and Japan’s commitment to a strong bilateral strategic partnership. Exercise Bushido Guardian 23 will enhance our interoperability with the JASDF, on ground and in the air Developing a mutual understanding in how we each operate the F-35A, is essential to how Australia and Japan contribute to the collective security of the Indo-Pacific. Our aviators will develop their skills deploying overseas, 5,800 kilometres from home, and forge professional relationships with their Japanese counterparts. Exercise Bushido Guardian 2023 follows a visit by JASDF F-35As to RAAF Base Tindal, which is the first time Japan’s F-35As have embarked on an international visit.”
Both the RAAF and JASDF operate the fifth-generation Lightning II F-35A Joint Strike Fighter. The RAAF took delivery of the first two F-35As at RAAF Base Williamtown in December 2018. The RAAF service will receive a total of 72 F-35As at a cost of around A$98 million per fighter jet beginning in 2018 with the entire F-35A fleet expected to reach full operating capability by 2023. the JASDF has stood up its first F-35A fighter squadron on March 26 2019. Japan has placed an initial order for 42 fifth-generation fighter jets. In December 2018, the cabinet of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe approved an increase of Japan’s existing order of 42 to 147 F-35 aircraft including an additional 63 F-35As and 42 F-35Bs, the U.S. Marine Corps’ short take-off and vertical landing (STOVL) variant of the aircraft.