Japan, India launch their first-ever fighter jet exercise near Tokyo

Japan and India on Monday began their first-ever joint fighter jet drill near Tokyo, the Japanese Defense Ministry said, in their latest effort to bolster defense ties as they face China’s growing military power in the Indo-Pacific region.

Four F-2 and four F-15 fighters from Japan’s Air Self-Defense Force are expected to join the 11-day air combat training through Jan 26 around Hyakuri Air Base in Ibaraki Prefecture, northeast of Tokyo, according to the ministry.

As far as the Indian Air Force is concerned, four Su-30MKI fighters, two C-17 transport aircraft and an IL-78 aerial refueling tanker are taking part, the ministry said.

Around 150 Indian Air Force personnel are taking part in the exercise at the Hyakuri Air Base in Ibaraki prefecture, northeast of Tokyo.

India is the fifth country with which Japan has hosted such a bilateral exercise after the United States, Australia, Britain and Germany, according to the Japanese ministry.

The drill was agreed upon by the two countries during talks between Japanese and Indian defence and foreign ministers in 2019 but was delayed by the pandemic.

Japan and India — along with Australia and the United States — are part of the “Quad” alliance, a grouping of regional powers that is increasingly concerned about China’s military and economic influence.

Tokyo has held a string of joint military exercises in recent months, as well as overhauling its defence and security strategy and explicitly airing its concerns about China.

In December, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s government committed to doubling defence spending to two per cent of GDP by 2027 and dubbed China the “greatest strategic challenge ever” to Japan’s security.

Last week, Japan inked a new defence deal with Britain and agreed to expand its mutual defence treaty with Washington to attacks in space.

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