KADENA AIR BASE, Okinawa — For the first time at a Japanese air base, American fighter jets will train with Japanese aircraft.

Kadena Air Base F-15s left Monday for four days of combat-maneuver training at Tsuiki Air Base, Japan, with the Japanese Air Self-Defense Force’s 8th Wing, according to a Kadena news statement.

Moving some of the bilateral training to Japanese facilities is a result of the realignment agreement finalized last year and is intended to improve operational abilities between the two forces and enhance readiness, officials say.

“Based on what’s happened around the world, the timing was right to do this,” said Air Force Brig. Gen. Joseph Reheiser, who is based at Yokota Air Base and whose responsibilities include planning bilateral exercises and air operations with the Japanese Air Self-Defense Force.

The relocation is an opportunity to learn the nuances of Japanese operations and to work with Japanese operators and maintainers, he said.

“Should anything happen, we could operate from bases we’re familiar with as opposed to ones we aren’t familiar with,” Reheiser said.

A tentative calendar, which is awaiting final approval from both governments, lays out a schedule over the next fiscal year for Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps assets to train at five different Japanese bases, he said.

For now the training will only include one to four aircraft over short durations, but the training will progress to include more aircraft and longer periods of time.

The realignment agreement also says the training relocation will “more equitably distribute training impacts among local communities,” a factor that has been promoted by Okinawan officials.

But Reheiser said that the main desire — for both governments — is the operational benefits.

In addition, Reheiser said, the training will help forge relationships — or what the military calls “soft combat power.”

“Lieutenants and captains become colonels and generals,” he said, noting that when he was stationed in Japan as a young officer he only had one chance to interact with his Japanese counterparts.

“Wouldn’t it have been great if I had friends as a lieutenant and could talk to them now and they were also senior officers in their service?”

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