A U.S. Navy F/A-18E from VFA-27 flies in formation with two Japan Air Self-Defense Force F-15J Eagles during dissimilar air combat training near Okinawa, Japan. (U.S. Navy/Cmdr. Spencer Abbot)

OKINAWA, Japan - The “Royal Maces” of Strike Fighter Squadron 27, an FA-18E Super Hornet squadron forward-deployed to Naval Air Facility Atsugi, Japan, concluded a Dissimilar Air Combat Training (DACT) detachment in cooperation with the Okinawa-based Japan Air Self-Defense Force (JASDF) 204th Fighter Squadron, flying the F-15J Eagle, Feb. 23-25.

DACT allows pilots to fly against and with different platforms to increase their readiness and interoperability.

“We work frequently with the 204th and other JASDF units during exercises while aboard the aircraft carrier USS George Washington (CVN 73) and often host representatives from JASDF units aboard the ship to help coordinate our combined operations,” said Royal Maces’ commanding officer, Cmdr. Spencer Abbot. “This type of unit-level detachment provides the opportunity for us to brief and debrief face-to-face with our counterparts, offering a valuable chance to enhance our readiness to operate together in the event of a crisis.”

A recent New York Times article noted the important role that the 204th squadron plays in patrolling the airspace around Okinawa.

“By enhancing our mutual understanding of our respective procedures and tactics, we can seamlessly integrate our operations when required,” said VFA-27 pilot Lt. Jeff Bolstad.

The detachment also allowed the participating pilots to compare notes on the training programs and personnel policies of the armed forces of each country.

“Despite coming from different countries and cultures, our experiences and outlook have far more in common than not, and we enjoyed the chance to compare perspectives on life in fighter aviation in both Japan and the United States,” said Lt. Andrew Moore from the Royal Maces.

Lt. Chris Nigus, an experienced Mace pilot, commented, “We’re grateful for the opportunity to fly the Navy’s newest strike-fighters in Japan and throughout the Asia-Pacific region. Training opportunities like these make service in the Japan-based Forward-Deployed Naval Forces one of the best jobs in the Navy. The pilots of the 204th were superb hosts, and we thoroughly enjoyed the chance to fly together.”

The permanent forward-deployed status of the Royal Maces as part of Carrier Air Wing 5, the U.S. Navy’s only air wing permanently stationed overseas, facilitates engagement opportunities with Japan and other key partners in the region.

“As a grateful past participant in a Personnel Exchange Program assignment with a foreign military, I strongly support opportunities for our pilots to brief, fly, and debrief alongside counterparts from Japan and other regional partners,” said Abbot. “Japan’s Self-Defense Force is extremely professional and capable and combined exercises like this at the unit level present a valuable learning experience for all involved. A shared understanding of procedures and tactics on both sides can pay significant dividends in the event that we find ourselves working together in a response to a contingency or crisis.”