By Ateet Sharma
New Delhi, Jan 11: The Indian Air Force (IAF) contingent was given a grand welcome as it landed at the Hyakuri Air Base, about 80 km northeast of Tokyo, on Tuesday for the inaugural joint Air Exercise between India and Japan that kicks off on January 12.
A traditional water cannon salute was given to the IAF's frontline Su-30 MKI fighter aircraft, four of which are participating, along with two C-17s and one IL-78, in Exercise 'Veer Guardian-2023' to be held till January 26.
The Indian contingent also includes Squadron Leader Avani Chaturvedi who is the first IAF woman fighter pilot to participate in an air exercise abroad.
Hyakuri Air Base Commander Major General Ishimura Takahisa, who welcomed the IAF contingent along with India's Ambassador to Japan Sibi George, affirmed that both countries will continue to promote defence cooperation in order to maintain and strengthen Free and Open Indo-Pacific (FOIP) region.
The Japan Air Self Defence Force (JASDF) will be represented by four Mitsubishi F-2 multirole fighters and four F-15 aircraft in the joint exercise.
The Hyakuri Air Base, located in Omitama City of Ibaraki Prefecture, is the only base in the Tokyo metropolitan area that has a combat air wing.
It was home to the former Navy Hyakurigahara Air Corps, which was established in 1938. In 2010, Hyakuri Airport was shared and the Ibaraki Airport terminal building was completed.
In 2019, Japan Air Force's 302nd Squadron (F-4) was moved to Misawa Air Base and upgraded to the F-35A. One year later, the reconnaissance squadron was abolished and the 3rd Squadron (F-2) moved from Misawa Air Base to Hyakuri Air Base.
As India and Japan celebrated the 70th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations, Chief of Air Staff Vivek Ram Chaudhari visited the key JASDF base in May last year at the invitation of JASDF chief Shunji Izutsu.
Air Chief Marshal Chaudhari was given a detailed presentation by Base Commander Ishimura on the units, equipment, etc. during his visit.
As reported by IndiaNarrative.com earlier, both countries had decided to hold their first air combat exercises following the 90-minute bilateral between visiting Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and his Japanese counterpart Yasukazu Hamada in Tokyo on September 8.
Held at the headquarters of the Japanese Defence Ministry ahead of the second India-Japan 2 + 2 Foreign and Defence Ministerial, the discussion finalised a roadmap to step up bilateral defence cooperation and engage in more military exercises. This also included the holding of the first joint fighter jet drills, reflecting the growing security cooperation between the two sides.
"This exercise will thus be another step in deepening strategic ties and closer defence cooperation between the two countries," the Indian Defence Ministry said in a statement last week.
The inaugural exercise will include the conduct of various aerial combat drills between the two Air Forces. They will undertake multi-domain air combat missions in a complex environment and will exchange best practices. Experts from both sides will also hold discussions to share their expertise on varied operational aspects.
"Exercise 'Veer Guardian' will fortify the long-standing bond of friendship and enhance the avenues of defence cooperation between the two Air Forces," said the Defence Ministry.
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