Japan, India launch joint fighter jet drill to strengthen anti-China alliance

Asia AFP - STR

Japan and India began their first joint fighter jet exercise on Monday near Tokyo as the countries upgrade defence and security ties with an eye on China's increasing military might.

The 11-day joint exercise will involve eight Japanese fighter jets, with India sending four fighters, two transport aircraft and an aerial refuelling tanker, Japan's defence ministry said.

Around 150 Indian Air Force personnel are taking part in the exercise at the Hyakuri Air Base in Ibaraki prefecture, northeast of Tokyo.

According to a press release by the Japan Air Self-Defense Force (ASDF), the purpose of the exercise is to "To promote mutual understanding and strengthen defense cooperation between the air forces and enhance JASDF's tactical skills."

Japan will participate with four F-2 and four F-15 fighter jets (both US-made) and India will bring four SU-30MKI fighter jets (jointly manufactured by India and Russia) and two C-17s (US-made transport planes.)

The drill was agreed by the two countries during talks between Japanese and Indian defence and foreign ministers in 2019, but was delayed by the Covid pandemic.

Quad alliance

Japan and India, together with Australia and the United States, are part of the "Quadrilateral Dialogue," or "Quad" alliance, a grouping of regional powers that are increasingly concerned about China's military and economic influence.

Tokyo has held a string of joint military exercises in recent months, as well as overhauling its defence and security strategy and explicitly airing its concerns about China.

In December, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida's government committed to doubling defence spending to two percent of GDP by 2027, and dubbed China the "greatest strategic challenge ever" to Japan's security.

Last week, Japan inked a new defence deal with Britain and agreed to expand its mutual defence treaty with Washington to include possible attacks in space.

(With agencies)