The Japan Air Self Defense Force (JASDF) has joined the Philippine Air Force (PAF) in their first integrated air defense training.

Japan has two F-15 fighter jets and approximately 60 Air Defense Command personnel stationed at the Clark Air Base in Pampanga, 40 miles northwest of Manila.

The two forces are conducting “unit-to-unit” exchange of integrated air defense systems  and personnel until December 11 to promote greater interoperability.

The bilateral exercise will share the nations’ best practices in communication and electronics, aircraft maintenance, medical affairs, base defense security, welfare facilities, and battle management, the Philippine Daily Inquirer reported.

Joint Drills

The 14-day air defense training is the first between the two allied countries.

For the last two years, the joint drills have focused on humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HA/DR), seeking to hone the troops’ capabilities in the “delivery of relief goods to affected people in severe emergencies.”

“It is highly significant for JASDF to conduct bilateral training with the PAF in the aim of improving HA/DR capabilities and to strengthen cooperation with the PAF,” Japanese Chief of Staff Gen. Izutsu Shunji said. 

“We will further strengthen the relationship between the two air forces and promote Free and Open Indo-Pacific with [PAF Chief] LtGen. [Connor Anthony] Canlas.”

Visiting Forces Agreement

According to Philippine Acting Defense Secretary Jose Faustino Jr., the countries are discussing a visiting forces agreement (VFA) that will allow for large-scale exercises.

At present, Japan can only conduct HA/DR drills in the country, serving as observers during the US-Philippines Balikatan military exercises.

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Philippine senators have already expressed support for endorsing the VFA earlier this month.

“It would be nice if we have a VFA with Japan so we can train with them because … if there’s an event of conflict here, remember we are treaty allies with the United States and Japan is also an ally of the United States. We have to have close coordination with the movements of our Navy vessels and armed forces,” Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri said.

“If there is a plan, we will support it. Remember, the Senate has the last touch on ratification. I think it’s a good idea,” he added.

Should the pact be approved, Japan will be only the third country, after the US and Australia, to have such an agreement with the Southeast Asian nation.