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Japanese F-35A Joint Strike Fighters are embarking on their first foreign deployment from 21 August to 2 September 2023 when they deploy to Australia via the US territory of Guam, the Japan Air Self-Defense Force (JASDF) announced on 14 August.

The deployment will involve four F-35As of the JASDF’s 3rd Air Wing supported by one KC-767 tanker and one C-130 transport aircraft from the 1st Tactical Airlift Group, one C-2 airlifter from the 2nd Tactical Airlift Group, one C-2 airlifter from the 3rd Tactical Airlift Group and a contingent of around 160 JASDF personnel.

The detachment will first fly to Anderson Air Force Base on Guam before continuing to RAAF Base Tindal and RAAF Base Darwin in Australia’s Northern Territory.

JASDF F-35As are making their first international deployment, travelling to northern Australian via Guam. (Photo: Lockheed Martin)

The purpose of the deployment, according to a JASDF press release, is “to promote mutual understanding by conducting this deployment training in addition to enhancing deployment capabilities with a view to future rotational deployment to Australia and overseas joint exercises” and to “further deepen defence co-operation to realise a ‘Free and Open Indo-Pacific’.

The deployment comes in the wake of increased Russian and Chinese military activity around Japan. On 18 August the Japanese Ministry of Defense (MoD) said it had scrambled fighters in response to two Russian Il-38 maritime patrol aircraft flying between the Sea of Japan and the East China Sea over the Tsushima Strait, which separates Japan and South Korea.

That activity came a day after the MoD reported Russian and Chinese naval vessels crossing international waters between Okinawa Island and Miyako Island in southern Japan. The ministry noted that this was the first time Chinese and Russian naval vessels had sailed through that particular area together.

Peter Felstead