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U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Xavier Diaz, an airframes mechanic with Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 232, waits before refilling the reservoirs of an F/A-18C Hornet at Japan Air Self-Defense Force (JASDF) Hyakuri Air Base, Japan, July 12, 2017. VMFA-232 has been conducting exercises with the JASDF as part of the Aviation Training Relocation program, which is designed to increase operational readiness and interoperability between U.S. and Japanese forces. The squadron plans to enhance proficiency in dissimilar basic fighter section engaged maneuvers, active air defense and air interdictions, as well as conduct fighter attack instructor work-ups, and weapons and tactics instructor prerequisites. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Mason Roy)

Photo by Lance Cpl. Mason Roy

Red Devils rumble from above

26 Jul 2017 | Lance Cpl. Mason Roy Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan

U.S. Marines Corps Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 232 continues to conduct simulated air-to-air combat flights with the Japan Air Self-Defense Force at JASDF Hyakuri Air Base, Japan, July 14, 2017.

VMFA-232 is conducting exercises with the JASDF as part of the Aviation Training Relocation program, which is designed to increase operational readiness and interoperability between U.S. and Japanese forces.

“The training is outstanding,” said U.S. Marine Corps Maj. Richard Behrmann, the executive officer of VMFA-232. “I cannot speak highly enough of the North Kanto Defense Bureau and the JASDF. It’s great to fly with a different kind of aircraft. Everything is absolutely phenomenal.”

As training continues, VMFA-232 F/A-18C Hornet pilots and JASDF F-4 Phantom II pilots continue routine “Red” and “Blue” flights.

“We take turns being Red and Blue air to gather training from both sides,” said U.S Marine Corps Capt. Charles Kirchner, a pilot with VMFA-232. “Red air simulates a threat aircraft type with a certain loadout and weapon system, and blue air would be the nation executing their tactics against that threat.”

The flight scenarios include conducting basic fighter maneuvers, section engaged maneuvers, active air defense and air interdictions.

These scenarios introduce pilots to unfamiliar environments while enhancing their proficiency and ability to engage soundly and swiftly to real-world situations.

“It’s always good to get out of your comfort zone because that’s what you’re going to do when you deploy,” said Kirchner. “It helps by going against another force that may use tactics you don’t usually see. The JASDF knows how to bring it to the table.”

As the Marines carry on their duties, they continue to build a more capable alliance and host-nation partnership with Japanese forces.

“This allows us to broaden our knowledge of how Japan does business,” said Behrmann. “It behooves us to get exposure with all of the units across Japan, and for them to receive exposure to us. The more we do these things, interoperability can be made easier.”

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