Air Marshal Pankaj Mohan Sinha, the Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief (AOC-in-C) of Indian Air Force's Western Air Command with JASDF Chief of Staff Shunji Izutsu at the Hyakuri air base (All images courtesy: IAF & JASDF)
India has invited Japan for joint fighter drills as the inaugural joint air exercise between both countries ‘Veer Guardian 2023’ entered its final phase at the Hyakuri Air Base of Japan Air Self Defence Force (JASDF) northeast of Tokyo on Tuesday.
Air Marshal Pankaj Mohan Sinha, the Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief (AOC-in-C) of Indian Air Force’s Western Air Command, took off in a Japanese F2 fighter, also called Heisei Zero Fighter or Viper Zero, in yet another show of deepening strategic ties and closer defence cooperation between the two countries.
JASDF Chief of Staff Shunji Izutsu too acquainted himself with the IAF’s Su-30 MKI following which both senior officials interacted with the participating members of the inaugural edition which began on January 12 and will conclude on India’s Republic Day.
Air Marshal Sinha, who assumed command of the IAF’s Western Air Command on January 1, is an experienced fighter pilot, Category ‘A’ Qualified Flying Instructor, Fighter Striker Leader, Instrument Rating Instructor and Examiner with more than 4500 hours of flying experience.
Addressing the local media, Air Marshal Sinha stated that the IAF has asked the Japanese side to conduct joint fighter drills in India.
JASDF Central Air Defence Force commander Sakamoto Koichi acknowledged that specific details, such as the timing of implementation of next joint exercise, are being coordinated.
“Through joint exercises, we can deepen our relationship and contribute to the peace and stability of the region,” Sakamoto was quoted as saying by the local media which was invited to witness the joint fighter drills.
While the IAF is represented by four Su-30 MKI, two C-17 and one IL-78 aircraft, JASDF’s four Mitsubishi F-2 multirole fighters and four F-15 aircraft are taking part in the joint exercise.
The contingents from both sides are undertaking multi-domain air combat missions in a complex environment and exchanging best practices.
As reported by IndiaNarrative.com, switching cockpits, an IAF pilot flew in a Japanese Air Force F2 ‘Viper Zero’ fighter jet last week.
Both New Delhi and Tokyo have acknowledged the importance of the India-Japan defence partnership and the critical role it will play in ensuring a free, open and rules-based Indo-Pacific region.
The improvement of interoperability between the two countries, including the use of the Japan-India Acquisition and Cross-Servicing Agreement, or the ACSA, in joint exercises has been welcomed by both sides.
Fortifying the longstanding bond of friendship, the IAF contingent on Tuesday took part in Mochitsuki, the pounding of rice to make mochi/rice cakes which is an important traditional event in preparation for the New Year in Japan.
The cultural exchange saw Indian officers witnessing mochi pounding for the first time as the JASDF officials prepared red bean paste, soybean flour and curry powder for the Indian contingent.