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Japanese F-35s to make inaugural deployment to Australia

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Japanese F-35s to make inaugural deployment to Australia

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MELBOURNE, Australia — Japan will send its fifth-generation F-35 stealth fighters overseas for the first time later this month to take part in exercises in northern Australia.

The Japan Air Self-Defense Force, or JASDF, said in a release Monday that four Lockheed-Martin F-35A Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters from the 3rd Air Wing at Misawa will undertake a two-week deployment.

According to the release, the deployment will see the jets take part in exercises flying via Andersen Air Force Base on the U.S. territory of Guam to Darwin and Tindal in Australia’s Northern Territory.

A JASDF Boeing KC-767 tanker, a Lockheed-Martin C-130 Hercules and two Kawasaki C-2 airlifters will support the F-35s for the exercises beginning Aug. 21 and concluding Sept. 2.

This will mark the first time Japan has sent its F-35s overseas for training and follows the deployment of five Mitsubishi F-2 fighters to Australia for the first time in 2022 when the JASDF took part in the multinational Pitch Black air combat exercise.

Royal Australian Air Force F-35As will deploy to Japan in early September for Exercise Bushido Guardian, a joint air combat training activity between the two countries, according to a joint announcement by Australia’s defense and foreign ministers.

Australia will also participate in Exercise Yama Sakura as a full participant for the first time with more than 150 personnel travelling to Japan in December for the land warfare exercise.

The announcement of the exercises comes as the Reciprocal Access Agreement, or RAA, between both countries comes into effect. The agreement provides the legal framework for greater cooperation between the defense forces of both countries.

This is the first visiting forces agreement Japan has struck with any country outside the United States and is expected to “streamline more effective force cooperation and enable each country to increase the sophistication and regularity of training, exercises and other cooperative activities,” according to the announcement.

Mike Yeo is the Asia correspondent for Defense News.

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