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Airman 1st Class Brandon Ceccardi, an F-15C crew chief from the 67th Fighter Squadron at Kadena Air Base, Japan, performs a pre-flight check on an F-15 at Misawa Air Base, Japan.

Airman 1st Class Brandon Ceccardi, an F-15C crew chief from the 67th Fighter Squadron at Kadena Air Base, Japan, performs a pre-flight check on an F-15 at Misawa Air Base, Japan. (Jennifer H. Svan / S&S)

Airman 1st Class Brandon Ceccardi, an F-15C crew chief from the 67th Fighter Squadron at Kadena Air Base, Japan, performs a pre-flight check on an F-15 at Misawa Air Base, Japan.

Airman 1st Class Brandon Ceccardi, an F-15C crew chief from the 67th Fighter Squadron at Kadena Air Base, Japan, performs a pre-flight check on an F-15 at Misawa Air Base, Japan. (Jennifer H. Svan / S&S)

Ceccardi helps F-15 pilot Capt. Jonathan Hough strap in prior to a training sortie.

Ceccardi helps F-15 pilot Capt. Jonathan Hough strap in prior to a training sortie. (Jennifer H. Svan / S&S)

Capt. Jonathan Hough, an F-15C Eagle pilot from the 67th Fighter Squadron at Kadena Air Base, Okinawa, prepares to head out on a training sortie.

Capt. Jonathan Hough, an F-15C Eagle pilot from the 67th Fighter Squadron at Kadena Air Base, Okinawa, prepares to head out on a training sortie. (Jennifer H. Svan / S&S)

Kadena sent five F-15s and more than 75 personnel to Misawa last week for a bilateral combat exercise with other U.S. and Japanese fighter aircraft.

Kadena sent five F-15s and more than 75 personnel to Misawa last week for a bilateral combat exercise with other U.S. and Japanese fighter aircraft. (Jennifer H. Svan / S&S)

Ceccardi said one of the biggest challenges working at Misawa was trying to squeeze the wider F-15 into F-16 aircraft shelters.

Ceccardi said one of the biggest challenges working at Misawa was trying to squeeze the wider F-15 into F-16 aircraft shelters. (Jennifer H. Svan / S&S)

MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan — The effects of last year’s realignment agreement between the United States and Japan rumbled through the skies above Misawa last week.

Kadena Air Base’s 67th Fighter Squadron sent five F-15C Eagles and more than 75 people from Okinawa to participate in a bilateral combat exercise with other U.S. military and Japanese fighter aircraft.

The exercise kicked off Tuesday and wrapped up Friday, with Kadena sending its war planes home Saturday.

The training up north marked the second time this year Kadena aircraft moved shop to train with the Japan Air Self Defense Force. The aviation training relocation, as it’s called, is part of the realignment agreement finalized last year to improve operational abilities between the two forces and enhance readiness, according to military officials.

“The government of Japan and the U.S. government agreed to do a series of continuing bilateral events where units from Kadena, Misawa and Iwakuni go to JASDF bases to conduct training,” said Col. Doug Carney, Kadena’s 18th Operations Group deputy commander and an F-15 pilot.

The agreement is also intended to more equally distribute training impacts among local communities — that means reducing the noise level generated by training sorties.

“That’s a side effect of this agreement,” Carney said. “We look at it from the perspective of being able to better operate at JASDF bases and work more closely with them than we have been.”

Kadena’s fighters showed up to participate in the Seikan War exercise alongside F-16CJs from the 35th Fighter Wing at Misawa and Japanese F-15Js from Chitose Air Base near Sapporo. F-2s and F-4s from JASDF’s 3rd Air Wing at Misawa also took part.

The 12 pilots and scores of maintainers worked out of the 13th Fighter Squadron spaces, which have been empty since the squadron deployed to Iraq in late May.

Despite sharing the same airspace, U.S. and JASDF pilots didn’t train together often in the past — even at Misawa, which hosts both a U.S. and JASDF fighter wing.

“One of the surprises pilots here see is we don’t train more together,” said Maj. Rob Petty, a 14th Fighter Squadron F-16 pilot.

“We had Kadena pilots train with Kadena pilots,” Carney said. “Now we’re going to their bases and working with them.”

So far, the training has been valuable, both in the air and on the ground — where logistics can be a challenge in an unfamiliar environment, Carney said.

“Just to figure out how to get parts, how to file a flight plan, where to get meals,” he said. “So far there haven’t been any problems that we haven’t been able to overcome very quickly.”

For Capt Scott Hardman, an F-15 pilot from Kadena, the exercise was his first look at a Japanese F-2.

“I didn’t know they were actually painted blue. I had no idea,” Hardman said, adding that he also learned “how similar they are to the F-16s we’re used to flying with.”

Petty said one of the biggest surprises was “how similar our tactics are and how easy it is to meld our missions and our roles.

“There are known challenges — everything from the language barrier — but it’s just not as bad as I thought it would be,” he said. “It certainly is a great opportunity.”

author picture
Jennifer reports on the U.S. military from Kaiserslautern, Germany, where she writes about the Air Force, Army and DODEA schools. She’s had previous assignments for Stars and Stripes in Japan, reporting from Yokota and Misawa air bases. Before Stripes, she worked for daily newspapers in Wyoming and Colorado. She’s a graduate of the College of William and Mary in Virginia.
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