An E-2C Hawkeye from VAW-115, an F/A-18E Super Hornet from VFA-195, and an F-4EJ Phantom II fighter from the JASDF's 302nd Tactical Fighter Squadron fly in formation as part of the second Benkyoukai training exercise. (U.S. Navy/Cmdr. Guy Snodgrass)

ATSUGI, Japan - The second annual Benkyoukai training event between the Japan Air Self Defense Force (JASDF) and Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 5 was conducted Aug. 1-4.

The weeklong event, led by the Dambusters of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 195, incorporated dissimilar air combat training (DACT) with the Japanese 302nd Tactical Fighter Squadron (TFS).

“We are incredibly pleased with the results from this most recent round of training and are already looking forward to the next Benkyoukai event,” said Capt. John Enfield, commanding officer of CVW-5, “The next series of events will significantly expand the number of participants as USN and JASDF forces continue to build upon a strong start.”

The first Benkyoukai, a Japanese word that translates to mean partnership and collaborative learning, took place in April and incorporated F-15J Eagles from the 305th TFS, F-4EJ Phantom II fighters from the 302nd TFS, and F/A-18E Super Hornets from VFA-195.

The first event marked a historical interaction since it was the first time in over a decade U.S. Navy tactical aircraft have worked directly with the JASDF. Multiple training missions enabled each unit to evaluate its performance and provide methods to enhance training for future combat readiness. The lessons learned from Benkyoukai I carried forward to Benkyoukai II, providing more efficient interactions and advanced training.

“The continuation of these exercises is vital to strengthening the relationship between Japanese and United States Navy forces,” said Cmdr. Guy Snodgrass, commanding officer of VFA-195 and the creator of the Benkyoukai initiative. “This unique opportunity enhances a bilateral partnership between aviation units while improving tactical integration with our host nation partners and critical Indo-Asia-Pacific allies.”

Throughout Benkyoukai II, air combat maneuvering sorties were conducted, enabling each nation’s pilots to test their abilities against their counterparts. Multi-plane events were incorporated into Benyoukai II to build on the foundation that was established with the last exercise. The Liberty Bells of Carrier Airborne Early Warning Squadron (VAW) 115, operating the E-2C Hawkeye, participated during multi-plane events to provide real-world integration of air intercept controller tactics.

“Our aircrew continue to be impressed by the level of professionalism and capabilities of our Japanese allies,” said Cmdr. David Waidelich, commanding officer of VAW-115. “These opportunities are a vital part of building the confidence required to operate effectively alongside each other.”

Plans to continue the Benkyoukai events are being organized and developed for next year. CVW-5 is the U.S. Navy’s only continuously forward-deployed air wing, operating from Naval Air Facility Atsugi, Japan, and embarked aboard USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76), operating from Yokosuka, Japan.